UK govt sanctions Roman Abramovich; Chelsea sale halted
Roman Abramovich’s attempt to sell Chelsea has been halted after the oligarch was sanctioned by the United Kingdom government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian put the European champions up for sale after the threat of sanctions was raised in Parliament.
The freezing of Abramovich’s assets, which include Chelsea, means the club cannot sell further match tickets.
The move is intended to stop Abramovich making money from Chelsea.
The government has issued a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket-holders to attend matches.
Chelsea have said they “intend to engage in discussions” with the government and will seek amendments to the special licence to “allow the club to operate as normal as possible”.
Chelsea will be unable to buy or sell players, or offer new contracts, while the sanctions are imposed on Abramovich. Chelsea-owned players who are on loan at other clubs will be able to continue to play for those clubs.
The London club’s merchandise shop has also been shut.
“Once you start digging down into what this could do – yes, they can play their games but will they even be able [to]?” former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin told the BBC World Football podcast.
“Massive amounts of questions but yes, it’s not hyperbole to say the future of the club is in serious danger.”
The government is open to considering a further addition to the special licence which will allow the sale of the club.
A condition for that to happen would be that Abramovich – one of Russia’s richest people who is believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin – receives no funds.
He has previously said that proceeds of any sale would be donated to victims of war.
On Wednesday, there were 20 credible parties looking at a potential Chelsea takeover and interest in buying the club has not been dented, despite Abramovich being sanctioned.
It is understood that although the news took many investors by surprise and there is confusion about what happens next, there is still plenty of desire to purchase the club.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said the government is “committed to protecting” the club.
“Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities,” she tweeted.
“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.”
Dorries later told BBC Sport: “Abramovich has links to Putin, who is mounting a barbaric and evil attack against the people of Ukraine.
“We in this department stand with the people of Ukraine and I’m afraid sanctions have consequences. Abramovich’s actions have consequences too.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s shirt sponsor, telecommunications company Three, has placed their deal under review. (BBC)