Ken Bates has been replaced as chairman of Chelsea Village, the company behind the football club, in a move which may hasten his exit from Stamford Bridge. The 72-year-old has also been told that his column in the Chelsea match programme has come to an end and he will no longer make pre-match appearances on the club's Chelsea TV channel. The moves follow the arrival of the new chief executive, Peter Kenyon, who joined from Manchester United.
The disappearance of Bates's column is the end of an era. He often used it to launch entertaining - often vicious - attacks on all quarters. He is due to leave the club in 2005 under the terms of the deal he struck last year with Roman Abramovich, which netted him a £17m for the club he bought in the 1980s for £1 and crippling debts.
He has been replaced as the chairman of Chelsea Village by Bruce Buck, an American lawyer and business associate of Abramovich who joined the board following the takeover. Kenyon also did little yesterday to dampen speculation that the Blues' manager, Claudio Ranieri, will be replaced in the summer, despite having a contract which runs until 2007.
Kenyon said that Chelsea expect to win honours this season but admitted: "I am used to management speculation. What I do know is that it is damaging for the club and the game."
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