LONDON (AFP) - English Premier League giants Chelsea announced Thursday (May 31) they had shelved plans for a new 60,000-seater stadium due to an "unfavourable investment climate".
The announcement comes at a difficult time for the Blues, with Russian owner Roman Abramovich still waiting on the extension of his British visa.
The delay comes amid a spiralling diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent, and calls from some corners for sanctions that would hurt super-rich Russians sheltering their wealth in London.
"Chelsea Football Club announces today that it has put its new stadium project on hold," the club said in a statement.
"No further pre-construction design and planning work will occur." "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." According to Channel 10 television in Israel, Abramovich recently flew to Tel Aviv and became a citizen after the delay in his British application.
Chelsea was looking to build the new stadium on its current Stamford Bridge site in west London, and planned to moved in by 2021.
Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, who built the Allianz Arena in Munich, the Bird's Nest in Beijing and other iconic stadiums, had won the tender to revamp Stamford Bridge.
Their project had already been granted permission by the Hammersmith and Fulham local authority and compensation arrangements had been agreed with homeowners set to be affected by construction.
But a conflict with one family occupying a property next to the stadium site resulted in significant delays, and pushed the cost up to around £1 billion (S$1.76 billion).
The project was also beset by uncertainty over the interim stadium to be used for matches whilst construction was under way.
A temporary move to Wembley Stadium was mooted.
However, an offer from US tycoon Shahid Khan to buy the 90,000-seater national stadium from the Football Association, the sport's governing body in England, cast doubt over that option.
A move to the 80,000-seater Twickenham national rugby stadium was also dismissed.
The present capacity of Stamford Bridge (41,631) is far below that of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium (59,867), currently the largest club stadium in the British capital.
Construction for a Tottenham Hotspur's stadium of roughly the same capacity is also under way.
West Ham are currently embroiled in a trial over the right to use all 66,000 seats at London Stadium. They are presently only authorised to fill 57,000.
Chelsea finished the season fifth in the Premier League table and won the FA Cup.