Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK government, blocking Chelsea sale
The proposed sale of Chelsea FC, one of the Premier League’s top teams, has effectively been blocked by the British government on Thursday after freezing all assets of the club’s Russian oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich.
Described by the UK government as a “pro-Kremlin oligarch,” Ambramovich has been served with a travel ban and asset freeze, depriving the owner from benefiting from the club.
A government document published on Thursday claimed that Abramovich has had a “close relationship for decades” with Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
British Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has said it has taken steps to ensure Chelsea can continue its operations and finish its footballing schedule. The Blues have been issued a “special license” to fulfill its football activities and for staff to be paid and current ticket and season-ticket holders to attend matches.
Dorries said on Twitter:
“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the Government will work with the league & 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.”
The government has said the license would be kept under review. The government would be open in the future to considering a license that would permit the sale of the club, as long as the proceeds would not be able to go to Abramovich. However, under the current “special license” allowing Chelsea FC to operate, they cannot be sold.
According to the New York Times, staff members this morning such as German head coach Thomas Tuchel were said to be struggling to deal with what the UK government’s decision would mean, suggesting they had not planned for such immediate and restrictive sanctions.
Chelsea’s Supporters Trust issued a statement in response on Twitter:
“The CST notes with concern the Government’s statement regarding the owner. Supporters MUST be involved in any conversation regarding ongoing impacts on the club and its global fan base. The CST implores the Government to conduct a swift process to minimise the uncertainty over Chelsea’s future, for supporters and for supporters to be given a golden share as part of the sale of the club.”
On Wednesday, according to BBC Sport there were 20 “credible interested parties” looking at a potential Chelsea purchase.
Telecommunications company Three have also confirmed to Matt lawton of the Times that their £40 million a year sponsorship deal with Chelsea is now “under review.”
The club’s merchandise shop will also be shut.
What does this mean for Chelsea?
This is going to be problematic. They can’t sort out new contracts, sign players or negotiate new contracts with players, such as defender Antonio Rudiger. Chelsea have grown to become one of the biggest clubs in the world, but the cultural impact of the sanctions is unprecedented and hamstrings Chelsea for the foreseeable future.
We are talking about a lot of money the club will lose from its normal operating cash flow and expenditure.
According to reports Chelsea’s wage bill is around £28 million a month, without any further merchandise or ticketing sales nor Abramovich being able to inject any more cash, the amount of cash reserves Chelsea currently has will be critical for the club to navigate uncharted waters for a club used to spending in order to compete at the top of the Premier League.