Former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had his sights set on Regent’s Park when he eyed a location for the club’s training ground – before he was told it was owned by the Queen.
The Russian bought Chelsea in 2003 and quickly set about displaying his wealth. They spent huge sums in the market as they became the dominant force in the Premier League, but Abramovich also had massive plans off the pitch.
He wanted to build a training ground and, while on a helicopter tour of London, highlighted an area two miles from Buckingham Palace as the right spot. He was quickly told the land would be somewhat unattainable.
Ken Bates told The Blueprint podcast : “Abramovich hired a helicopter for a trip around London. He saw the park and said: ‘That looks like a good park. Let’s buy that for the training ground.’ But he got told ‘I don’t think you will get that. That’s Regent’s Park and it’s owned by the Queen.'”
The Blues settled at their Cobham-training base, which is reported to cost £20m. They were granted permission to begin work in 2004 and it was unveiled in 2007 with then manager Jose Mourinho claiming it was a “significant step forward”.
Abramovich saw Chelsea win every trophy possible during his near 20-year ownership, but sold up last summer amid mounting pressure after Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
The Russian billionaire’s desire to buy a football club came after he witnessed a Champions League classic between Manchester United and Real Madrid in 2003.
He originally eyed the Red Devils, but was told they weren’t for sale. Tottenham were also touted as an option but he chose to buy Chelsea, who had just secured Champions League football on the last game of Bates’ era.
The former owner wrapped up a deal to sell the club with Abramovich keen to get things done quickly. Bates added: “I didn’t give Abramovich a tour or anything of the stadium, he didn’t ask. He had been in Manchester and wanted to buy Manchester United, so when Chelsea came up in conversation, he bought the club.
“Abramovich just sat there, nodding his head and listening. They said – and I can’t remember it word for word now – but basically ‘We don’t want a big song and dance, we want a quick deal’, because he had tried to buy Man United, but it wasn’t for sale.”