The Dutch Football Federation has launched an investigation into the ownership structure of Vitesse Arnhem after the former major shareholder alleged Chelsea had exerted undue influence at the Eredivisie club and had even sought to prevent them from qualifying for the Champions League.
The Premier League club and Vitesse enjoy a close relationship, with the Dutch team's owner, Alexander Chigirinsky, a good friend of Roman Abramovich. Chelsea have four players – Bertrand Traoré, Lucas Piazon, Patrick van Aanholt and Christian Atsu – on loan at the GelreDome, with others having spent time there over the first half of this season. The partnership has helped Vitesse to third in the table.
A bitter dispute has recently flared up between the former owner Merab Jordania and Chigirinsky, with the former suggesting Chelsea had not wanted the Dutch club to qualify for Europe's elite competition. Uefa regulations prevent owners from entering two teams in one of its competitions.
Chelsea have dismissed Jordania's allegations and insist Vitesse are an independent club whose qualification for the Champions League would benefit their loanees' development, but declined to comment publicly on the matter. Jordania's assertions, however, have prompted the Dutch federation, KNVB, to ask its member club to detail their "organisational structure" to ensure the integrity of the local competition.
"I want to tell the Vitesse supporters the real story," said Jordania, a former Georgian footballer who saved Vitesse from financial ruin in 2010. "I wanted to reach for the title, but 'London' didn't want that in the end. Ambition is fine, but Vitesse is not allowed to reach the Champions League … I will tell you now why [the manager] Fred Rutten left [last June]. He knew that he wasn't allowed to win the title with Vitesse.
"In the winter he brought the team to the top. We had the feeling we needed one more player to win the title, Kelvin Leerdam. The transfer seemed to be a done deal when all of a sudden 'London' intervened. We were not allowed to be too strong. I couldn't explain that to Fred. I had to cover the club and 'London', but it caused a lot of tension and chaos."
Jordania also claimed the sale of Wilfried Bony to Swansea last summer was sanctioned to prevent Vitesse qualifying for the Champions League. "I wanted to keep Bony in Arnhem for six more months," he said. "I was in touch with Michael Laudrup, the Swansea manager at the time. I told him it was better that he took Bony in the winter, for Vitesse to start strong in the season, but Bony had to be sold."
The Vitesse chairman, Bert Roetert, claimed Jordania's comments read like "a poor 1 April joke".