Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Chelsea And Abramovich Hit With Sanctions: The Fallout

Posted on 11 March 2022 by Luke Collins
Chelsea FC and Roman Abramovich were hit with UK government sanctions yesterday
Chelsea FC and Roman Abramovich were hit with UK government sanctions yesterday

It was hardly the birthday present that Chelsea were hoping for, but probably one that the club expected.

10th March marked 117 years since Chelsea Football Club was established. But there was little time to celebrate as the headlines in the news began to circulate.

For weeks MPs and others have called for the government to impose sanctions on Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin for the country’s invasion of Ukraine. At the centre of the debate was Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

The oligarch has long been suspected of having close ties with Putin. And yesterday morning, the government announced sanctions against all those linked to the Russian leader.

What The Sanctions Stipulate

Abramovich was suspected by the government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation of having provided steel to the Russian military for the building of tanks. The Russian owns 29% of steel and coal company Evraz.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter that Abramovich and other individuals who were sanctioned yesterday morning had the blood of the Ukrainian people on their hands and should “hang their heads in shame.”

The sanctions mean that all assets owned by Abramovich were frozen, including Chelsea.

A statement put out on the government website stated: “Abramovich had assets frozen this morning as part of a raft of further sanctions against individuals linked to the Russian regime.

“Freezing his assets means he cannot benefit from his ownership and make any money from Chelsea.”

However, Chelsea have been granted a special licence to operate so that they can continue their day-to-day operations. But the licence leaves little room to manoeuvre.

The sanctions include:

The club cannot exceed £20,000 per game per team when travelling to and from away fixtures.

The club cannot exceed £500,000 per game per team when hosting home fixtures.

Those who bought match tickets before the 10th March 2022 can attend those games. But the club cannot sell tickets for fixtures from the 10th March 2022. Season ticket holders can attend the remainder of the games this season.

The club cannot sell merchandise from the 10th March 2022.

The club cannot sign or sell players, and cannot offer existing players new contracts.

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What Has The Impact On Chelsea Been So Far?

Since the sanctions against Abramovich was announced, the impact they are having on Chelsea is already being felt behind the scenes.

Facilities such as the Megastore were closed and Three announced that they were suspending their sponsorship with Chelsea for the time being.

Those who work at the club are already feeling the consequences. On BBC Radio Five Live, Pat Nevin stated that staff in and around the club were being laid off to save costs.

The loss of income will have a severe financial impact, and there is concern that the club could finish the season in administration.

On the pitch though, it was business as usual. Players might have been forgiven for their minds being elsewhere as the men’s team faced Norwich and the women’s team played West Ham that same evening.

But both teams recorded comfortable victories to ensure that Chelsea’s birthday ended on a high note at the very least.

After the game, Emma Hayes spoke about the need for meetings to take place between the club and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, saying there needed to be a greater understanding of what clubs needed to operate.

Thomas Tuchel on the other hand highlighted the mentality within Chelsea’s dressing room.

“As long as we have enough shirts and a bus to drive to the games we will be there and will compete hard.”

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What Does This Mean For The Sale Of Chelsea?

Before the sanctions were imposed, Abramovich had announced his intention to sell Chelsea last week.

A week on, he is no longer able to under the current licence that Chelsea have been granted.

The government has said that it is open to the sale of the club and would be willing to negotiate a new licence to allow for the sale.

But they have specifically stated that no proceeds could go to Abramovich directly or indirectly, meaning that he would have to sell the club and not be able to access any of the proceeds until the sanctions against him are lifted. 

Although some potential buyers have been deterred by the uncertainty surrounding the club, others remain interested.

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Whether Abramovich would be willing to sell Chelsea without receiving any immediate payment will only be found out over time.

But he stated last week that buying Chelsea was never about business, but a passion for football and that any proceeds from the sale would go to a charity for the victims of the war in Ukraine.

Some fans believe that Abramovich could show his lack of financial motivation by doing the right thing for the club and allowing for the sale to go through.

“If he is true to his word and he was going to walk away from the £1.5 billion of debt, then he walks away now and the money goes elsewhere,” says Dan Silver of the Chelsea Supporters Trust. “Any sort of fight with the UK government could leave Chelsea in a massive hole.

“If he’s not going to get any proceeds from the sale then that’s what he should do.”

The Reaction Of Chelsea Fans

The announcement yesterday morning has provoked a reaction from Chelsea fans.

They have taken a particular issue with the restrictions placed on fans attending games with many seeing it as the club and the fanbase being punished for things that are out of their control.

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But there is an understanding amongst most of the fanbase that there are more important things than Chelsea’s immediate future.

“Football pales into insignificance when you weigh it up against what is happening in Ukraine,” says David Johnstone from the CFC Fanzine. “We’re not callous, simple-minded people with just football on our minds.

“There is a wider awareness of what’s going on in the world rather than just being worried about our football club.”

There has also been speculation that these sanctions may spell the end for Chelsea Football Club as fans have come to know it today. But being one of the most successful clubs in the 21st century comes second to making sure that the club can continue.

“Trophies don’t define my support. They’re like the gravy with a roast or the cherry on the cake,” says Dan Silver.

“We just want to make sure that Chelsea FC exists as close as possible to it’s current form. Players in blue, playing at Stamford Bridge.”

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