Todd Boehly remains on track to complete the purchase of Chelsea, despite an effort by Sir Jim Ratcliffe to position himself to pounce if the American’s deal meets an 11th-hour hitch.
Ratcliffe and his team have now spoken to Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, even though Boehly was last Friday given preferred bidder status to buy the club, which granted him a period of exclusivity to fulfil outstanding contractual requirements and sign legal documents.
Telegraph Sport understands that Sir Martin Broughton has also told members of his consortium to remain on standby in case the Boehly bid breaks down, but there is currently no real confidence of that happening.
No problems have been anticipated around the Boehly bid, with everything thought to be running on course for the American’s group to be advanced for UK Government and Premier League approval ahead of an official sale.
The Boehly group, which includes Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, American businessman Mark Walter, British entrepreneur Jonathan Goldstein and the investment firm Clearlake Capital, have always been confident that they will quickly pass all of the Government and Premier League checks.
Sources around the process maintain that Ratcliffe’s dramatic hijack attempt that was made last Friday morning, hours before Boehly was named Chelsea’s preferred bidder, came too late.
But that has not stopped Britain’s richest man speaking with the CST to explain his last-gasp bid and his vision for the club should he somehow manage to push his way in through the back door.
No further meeting has been scheduled with the CST at this stage and Ratcliffe is yet to respond to an attempt from Paul Canoville, Chelsea’s first black player who met with all of the shortlisted bidders, to speak with him. Canoville was last week abused on Twitter after questioning Ratcliffe’s support of Brexit.
Ratcliffe’s hijack hopes would seemingly depend on Boehly failing to meet the contractual requirements of his period of exclusivity or Chelsea dramatically moving the goalposts at the last minute.
Such a move would be highly risky, as Chelsea have been made aware that the May 31 expiry of the club’s operating licence is a hard deadline that will not be extended by the UK Government.
Some sources even claim that Chelsea would be expelled from playing in the Premier League next season if a sale has not gone through by the end of this month and any minor delay would now put that in jeopardy.
While Ratcliffe tried to market his offer as the sole British bid for Chelsea, concerns have been expressed that he was a public backer of Brexit who resides in the tax haven of Monaco.
That issue has already caused a problem for Canoville, who deleted a message he posted on Twitter about Ratcliffe’s allegiance to the Brexit campaign, which sparked a number of abusive responses.
Canoville, the CST and the Chelsea Pitch Owners met with all of the initial four shortlisted bidders, with Canoville offering his public support to the Boehly bid.
“I guess I am just like any Chelsea fan now in terms of wanting to see an end to the uncertainty and the timing of this late (Ratcliffe) bid seems to have caused stress levels to rise,” said Canoville. “We have reached out to Mr Ratcliffe through his media team, but not heard anything back.
“I want what’s best for Chelsea and our fans first and foremost, but I do think it is important to hear about all interested parties’ views on tackling racism, diversity, and inclusion.”
Gary Trowsdale, policy advisor and special projects manager for Canoville’s foundation, added: “After all those who took part in the process felt it appropriate to meet with Paul, you would hope that this will apply to Jim Ratcliffe as well.
“Paul had to block over 200 accounts on his Twitter account last week just because he dared to mention Brexit, which demonstrates eloquently how divisive an issue it still is.
“Given his personal endorsement of Brexit, I think it’s as appropriate for him (Ratcliffe) to meet Paul as it was Tom Ricketts. In pure business terms, the statement from INEOS was very impressive and as with Paul, I am a Chelsea fan who just wants what is best for our club.”