The treasury department has claimed that the Chelsea owner and Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich is associated with Putin which has resulted in him being sanctioned by the UK.
Chelsea has been thrown into disarray as Roman Abramovich was named as one of seven Russian businessmen sanctioned by the UK. The Blues find themselves in this position at the end of one of the most dramatic days in modern English football history:
- unable to change ownership without obtaining a fresh license from the UK government, which will only approve a deal in which Abramovich receives no compensation;
- Season ticket holders and those who have already purchased seats are the only ones who will be able to attend;
- facing the prospect of a Champions League quarterfinal behind closed doors;
- preventing the registration of new players and the signing of new contracts;
- After telecoms firm Three forced them to remove their branding, they are fighting to keep their sponsors.
Abramovich, who formally put the west London club up for sale earlier this month as the potential of fines loomed large, has been barred from doing deal with persons or entities in the United Kingdom. He is unable to access his assets and is not permitted to come to the nation.
The 55-year-old has always denied any ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the Treasury Department claims he “is associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilizing Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades.”
Chelsea has been granted a special license to function as a football club, but the terms and limitations are quite onerous. The government of the United Kingdom has stated that it is willing to sell Chelsea. Any such deal would necessitate special government permission and a new license. While Abramovich is under sanctions, none of the sale revenues can go to him.
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Abramovich had previously stated that he would not seek repayment of the $2 billion debt due to him, and that the sale’s net earnings would go to a foundation he would establish to aid “all victims of the war in Ukraine.” That foundation would have to be reconstituted, and Chelsea’s owner would have to show he received no money from any transaction, thereby wiping off the large amounts owed to him.
Initial bids had been submitted, with many other parties expressing interest, including a joint offer from Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss and his American counterpart Todd Boehly.
Meanwhile, Chelsea sponsors have began to relinquish ties with the club due to concerns about the their reputation being harmed as a result of their association with club. Three has suspended their $52.5 million shirt sponsorship deal with Chelsea, which was set to run through the summer of 2023, and has asked for their logo to be removed off club gear and Stamford Bridge immediately. According to CBS Sports, the telecommunications provider worked to remove the sponsors’ emblem from Thomas Tuchel’s team’s shirts for the Premier League match versus Norwich on March 10 in the hours leading up to kickoff.
“In light of the government’s recently announced sanctions, we have requested Chelsea Football Club temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from shirts and around the stadium until further notice,” said a Three spokesperson.
“We recognize that this decision will impact the many Chelsea fans who follow their team passionately. However, we feel that given the circumstances, and the government sanctions that is in place, it is the right thing to do.”
Club partner Zapp has also terminated their agreement with the Blues, and Hyundai Motor Company, the Blues’ automobile partner, could be next.
According to a spokesman for the South Korean automaker, “Hyundai has become one of the strongest partners in football over the years and the company supports the sport to be a force for good. We are currently assessing the situation with Chelsea FC.”
Chelsea said in a statement in response to the sanctions that they will talk to the government about modifying their license, which they think would allow them to function more regularly but might possibly lead to a sale: “We will fulfil our men’s and women’s team fixtures [Thursday] against Norwich and West Ham, respectively, and intend to engage in discussions with the U.K. government regarding the scope of the license,” Chelsea said.
“This will include seeking permission for the license to be amended in order to allow the club to operate as normal as possible. We will also be seeking guidance from the U.K. government on the impact of these measures on the Chelsea Foundation and its important work in our communities.”
Chelsea will not be able to sell tickets for its games in the meanwhile, meaning that only season-ticket holders will be able to attend, and they will be unable to sign new players or extend the contracts of present players. Due to their inability to sell tickets from now until the end of the license period, they may be forced to play their quarterfinal away from home if they beat Lille in the Champions League round of 16.
Travel costs will be regulated at just over $26,000 (£20,000) every game for the Blues, posing a logistical challenge for their Champions League obligations, while stewarding and catering costs will be set at roughly $650,000 (£500,000) per match.
The “Russia Regulations” license also allows for the settlement of outstanding fees from loan and transfer agreements signed prior to Thursday (March 10). In practice, this implies that clubs owed money by Chelsea for previous deals have the right to pursue it. The club may receive outstanding transfer fees, broadcast revenue, and performance fees such as competition prize money, but such revenues will only be used for day-to-day operations.
“HM Treasury may vary, revoke, or suspend this license at any time,” and will expire on May 31.
Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Culture, stated: “Putin’s attack on Ukraine continues and we are witnessing new levels of evil by the hour. Today the government has announced further sanctions against individuals linked to the Russian government. This list includes Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.”
“Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account. Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club and the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.”
“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special license that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club. I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.”
Chelsea will play Norwich in the Premier League on Thursday night before returning to Champions League action the following week, when they face Lille in France on Wednesday night in the second leg of their round of 16 tie (on Paramount+). Their next home game is against Newcastle on Sunday, followed by a match against Brentford on April 2. The Bees have not yet sold out their away allotment (the next set of tickets was supposed to go on sale later on March 10), but they had already committed to taking it all.
“In light of the breaking news in relation to Chelsea FC, we are seeking clarification from the Premier League as to what this means for our away ticketing allocation at the match at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, April 2,” Brentford added. “Prior to March 10 we made a contractual commitment to take our entire allocation of 3,000 tickets for this match and will do everything in our power to ensure our full allocation is distributed to Bees fans.”