May 31, 2018 / 1:13 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Soccer-Chelsea suspend new stadium plans due to "unfavourable investment climate"

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LONDON, May 31 (Reuters) - Premier League soccer team Chelsea, whose Russian owner Roman Abramovich has faced delays in having his UK visa renewed, said on Thursday that work on their new stadium in London would be suspended indefinitely because of the unfavourable investment climate.

In a statement, the club did not say whether the decision was related to the visa problems of Abramovich who was reported to have taken Israeli citizenship earlier this week.

“Chelsea Football Club announces today that it has put its new stadium project on hold. No further pre-construction design and planning work will occur,” the club website statement said.

“The club does not have a time frame set for reconsideration of its decision,” it added. “The decision was made due to the current unfavourable investment climate.”

The Blues were planning to build a new 60,000-seat stadium at their current home in Stamford Bridge, west London. The current stadium capacity is around 42,000.

Last year, London mayor Sadiq Khan approved the 500 million pound redevelopment, although the estimated cost of the project has risen since.

Premier league winners in 2016/17, Chelsea missed out on Champions League football by finishing fifth this year, and there is substantial uncertainty around the future of manager Antonio Conte.

Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, since when the club has won five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and one Champions League during the most successful spell in the club’s 113-year history.

But British authorities, whose relations with Moscow have been strained since the poisoning in Salisbury three months ago of a former Russian spy and his daughter, are yet to renew the oligarch’s visa after it expired last month, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Britain’s interior minister said in March that the government would look retrospectively at visas issued to wealthy foreign investors and consider whether action needs to be taken, and Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is right to see whether visas were being used properly.

A spokesman for Abramovich was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison)

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