“There was no deliberate attempt to try to avoid the process, believe me,” said Crotty. “We looked at the club in 2018 and the reason we didn’t proceed was we thought it was too pricey and the message we were getting was it wasn’t officially for sale and it’s 3-4 billion. At the time, the revenues weren’t as high as they are now and we thought ‘it’s just not worth it, it’s absolutely not worth it’.
“When we saw this process, we thought ‘well it’s still going to be too pricey’ and then we started getting vibes back that the bids were in our opinion quite reasonable, people talking about the £2.5 billion number, which against current revenues looks remove sensitive. They make financial sense, so that’s why we threw in a late bid. We thought ‘if genuinely the deal would be done at those sorts of prices then let’s have a go’.”
Asked why the bid could not have been made two weeks earlier, Crotty added: “Two weeks earlier, we hadn’t decided we wanted to do it, it’s as simple as that.
“Whether you believe us or not, our intentions are driven by being fans of the game. Jim has been a Chelsea season ticket holder for the last 10 years and a Manchester United fan from birth, he was born a mile from the ground. So he’s a football fan and he understands what the fans want. London deserves a club of the stature of Bayern Munich or Real Madrid and Chelsea gives you that opportunity.”
While there is plenty of financial muscle behind Ratcliffe’s bid, it is light on detail in comparison to their competitors. The INEOS group met with the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust last Sunday and plan to meet with them again this week, along with the Chelsea Pitch Owners and the club’s first black player Paul Canoville.
There is currently no fan representation on their bid and Ratcliffe is yet to make any pledges regarding committing to setting up a shadow board or issuing a golden share to supporters. He has the money to redevelop Stamford Bridge, but has not yet spoken to architects or decided on a favored plan for the stadium.
Ratcliffe would not run Chelsea on a daily basis and it remains unknown what his management structure would be, with Crotty saying: “It’s too early to say. We haven’t had a chance to meet the people properly.”
With the Government unwilling to extend the May 31 deadline on Chelsea’s operating licence, Crotty is adamant that Ratcliffe could complete a deal to buy the club within three weeks, but also admitted he had “no idea” what the issue surrounding Roman Abramovich’s £1.6 billion loan meant for the sale.
“It’s a good question and probably a question for the Government,” said Crotty. “If there were any hold ups, they would not be at our end.
“Our bid was really clear. We had three requirements, which we put in. One, we buy 100 per cent of Chelsea FC. Two, there is no debt, we are buying a debt-free asset and three is that we have a guaranteed use and availability of the pitch.”
Asked if they would take on Abramovich’s £1.6 billion debt, Crotty added: “Not in addition to what we are already offering, no. Absolutely not. The valuation is based on it being debt free.”
Ratcliffe and INEOS already own Nice, who bought for £100 million in 2019, and the Ligue 1 club can qualify for the Europa League by winning Saturday’s French Cup final against Nantes, which the 69-year-old and Crotty will attend.
Uefa rules do not allow individuals or companies to control two clubs in the same European competition and Ratcliffe would be prepared to relinquish control of Nice were he to buy Chelsea and the issue developed into a problem.
Asked if a plan was already in place, Crotty said: “No, we’ve been pretty open with the guys in Nice that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but we will not let down the club. We would find a way round that. We would have to find a way to relinquish control, which we would want to do without causing a problem for the club or the fans.
“The priority, logically, would be the club you are paying £2.5 billion for but that’s just common sense. If we relinquished control of Nice in the event we were successful for Chelsea, then we would do it in a way not to damage Nice.”
In terms of investment into Chelsea, Ratcliffe and his team believe they represent the closest thing to Abramovich of all the bidders, including Boehly, whose group includes the private equity firm Clearlake Capital.
“You have to have huge respect for what Roman Abramovich has done at Chelsea,” said Crotty. “They have had a consistency of (financial) support and we would want that to continue.
“Our issue if you look at the preferred bid – it’s not the Boehly bid, it’s the Clearlake bid. It’s a private equity bid and the NFL don’t allow private equity firms to take major stakes in clubs, so why should the Premier League? Jim spent seven years working in private equity and the nature of private equity is investors have a requirement for a relatively short to medium term return. How do you do that with a club like Chelsea, which needs a huge amount of investment in the next 10 years?”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.