It has been a seismic day in the history of Chelsea after their Russian owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK Government early on Thursday.
The decision to freeze the Blues owner’s assets, including his Premier League club based in west London, comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UK Government says Abramovich has links to president Vladimir Putin, despite his denials.
Abramovich announced last week that he is looking to sell the club, but Thursday morning’s announcement means that process has been paused for now – and the ownership of the Blues is in the hands of the UK Government.
The big question is – now what? What lies ahead for Chelsea as a business and a community? What happens to the all-star squad that Abramovich helped assemble at Stamford Bridge? And can Abramovich still sell the club?
Sky Sports’ chief news reporter Kaveh Solhekol answers all the necessary questions below…
Why has the UK Government punished Roman Abramovich?
“For the past couple of weeks, the UK government have asked the National Crime Agency to find a link between Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Putin.
“They needed to prove beyond doubt that Abramovich was close to Putin, and obviously they have that evidence now and have been able to freeze his assets and issue such strong statements.
“We know for a fact Abramovich was involved in politics. He was a politician; he was basically a member of parliament in Russia, he was the governor of the Chukotka region until 2008.
“Abramovich was close to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. It was because of his relationship with Yeltsin that he grew to be so rich. We know that he was close to Putin.
“For his part, Abramovich has stressed that was all in the past, that he is not involved in politics anymore. Obviously, the UK government have looked have at the evidence and decided he is and that he is close to Putin, and in light of what Putin and Russia are doing in Ukraine, his assets have been frozen.”
So, what can and can’t Chelsea do?
“Sanctions on Abramovich have been imposed to stop him making any money but Chelsea have been given a licence for football-related activity to continue because they are a significant cultural asset.
“They can carry on playing games, their games can be shown on TV and they can continue to receive broadcast revenues. That means they can carry on paying wages and bills but they can’t give players new contracts.
“From today [Thursday], Chelsea cannot sell tickets to any games. So the only people who can go to Stamford Bridge and watch a game are those who have already purchased match tickets or season tickets.
“The club shop is closed; you cannot buy merchandise from Chelsea anymore. You can buy merchandise from third parties, however, providing they still have stock.
“At home games, they are allowed to spend up to £500,000 on security, catering and stewarding. For away games, they are only allowed to spend up to £20,000 on travel.
“No expenditure allowed on new works or refurbishments. Loan arrangements agreed before today can continue and outstanding transfer payments due to clubs can continue to be paid.”
What does this all mean for the current Chelsea first-team players – and their women’s and youth teams?
“They’ll be able to carry on paying their players and day-to-day bills. Chelsea have money to operate. In their latest accounts, they lost £145m for the year, that was covered by Roman Abramovich.
“He won’t be able to do that at the moment, but Chelsea have the funds to continue. I would not worry about the short term. Chelsea are not going to go out of business.
“It’s business as usual [for the whole club, including women’s and youth teams]. They can carry on operating but are under the same restrictions as the first team. The limit of £20k for travel applies to every team.
“The government don’t want to damage Chelsea, they recognise it’s a cultural asset. They want these teams to carry on running.”
Will Chelsea get a points deduction from the Premier League?
“I haven’t heard anything to suggest there will be a points deduction from the FA. As far as the Premier League are concerned, they want to manage the process so that Chelsea can continue to operate.
“There is no appetite to punish Chelsea at the moment, the focus is on protecting the integrity of the competitions Chelsea are involved in. The Premier League have already confirmed tonight’s match between Norwich and Chelsea will go ahead.”
How can Chelsea fulfil European away games with just a £20,000 budget?
“There’s some flexibility when it comes to that. I don’t sense it is going to be strictly policed. Chelsea have arrangements in place with their travel partners whereby they are paid in advance of the season.”
Can Roman Abramovich still sell Chelsea, despite these sanctions?
“A No 10 spokesman says Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea could still happen – but it would need more negotiations with the UK Treasury.
“The UK Government are open to Abramovich selling Chelsea, even though they sanctioned him on Thursday morning, as they are only interested in punishing those close to Putin – not punishing the Chelsea fans.
“Another licence, similar to the football-related activities one, would have to be submitted by the Government to allow Abramovich to sell Chelsea.”
Timeline of events since Russia invaded Ukraine
- Feb 24: Russian forces begin an invasion of Ukraine
- Feb 24: Labour MP Chris Bryant says Abramovich should not be allowed to own the club given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- Feb 24: Bryant used Parliamentary Privilege to reveal Abramovich is selling his UK home and one of his flats, telling the House of Commons he’s ‘terrified of being sanctioned’
- Feb 26: In a statement, ‘stewardship’ of the club is handed over to the Chelsea Foundation
- March 1: The Charity Commission raise concerns over Abramovich’s statement, before he announces his intention to sell Chelsea after 19 years, with the Russian promising to donate money from the sale to help victims of the war in Ukraine
- March 3: Gary Neville tells Sky Sports: ‘It’s more of a reactive measure than a planned measure’
- March 5: Chelsea fans sing Abramovich’s name during a minute’s applause at Turf Moor in support for Ukraine; Thomas Tuchel says he has ‘no problem’ remaining Chelsea boss despite Abramovich’s plan to sell the club
- March 7: As many as 10 parties consider making bids for the west London club
- March 10: Abramovich’s attempt to sell Chelsea are halted after the oligarch was sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine