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Abramovich sanctions put Chelsea in jeopardy

March 10, 2022

The British government has frozen the assets of Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich. The sanctions mean Abramovich will not be able to proceed with his planned sale of the club, putting its future in doubt.

Roman Abramowitsch | russischer Oligarch
Image: Anthony Anex/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

Premier League club Chelsea are now effectively under the control of the British government after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was placed under sanctions on Thursday.

Abramovich, who had been under scrutiny following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, had announced he was selling the Premier League club last week. But that is no longer possible, leaving the European champions in a state of limbo.

German head coach Thomas Tuchel will not be able to trade players or offer new contracts, while new tickets will not be for sale for matches. Season tickets and tickets purchased before Thursday will be honored.

The Russian bought the West London team in 2003 for a reported £140 million pounds (€167 million, $184 million) and his investment contributed hugely to the most successful era in the team's history as they won five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice.

"There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, announcing sanctions on wealthy Russians with links to the Kremlin.

"Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies."

Kai Havertz
Chelsea have a number of German players, including Kai HavertzImage: Adam Davy/imago images/PA Images

Abramovich has recently sought to paint himself as an apolitical figure and said earlier this month that the sale was not a direct result of the political climate.

"The sale of the Club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process," his March 2 statement read. "I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club.

"Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated. The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery."

The loans referred to by the oligarch totalled £1.5 billion lent through Fordstam Limited, the entity through which he owns the club.

In their most recent accounts in December, Chelsea who reported losses of £145.6 million, said they were "reliant on Fordstam Limited for the club's continued financial support."

As such, the future of the west London club remains in doubt. For now they will be operating under a special government licence, which allows some exemptions to the asset freeze restrictions, in order to allow Chelsea to fulfil their fixtures. Players can still be paid but the club cannot sell merchandise and is effectively under a transfer ban.

"We will fulfil our men’s and women’s team fixtures today against Norwich and West Ham, respectively, and intend to engage in discussions with the UK Government regarding the scope of the licence," the club announced in a statement released on Thursday afternoon.

mp/pfd (Reuters, AP)