Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government Thursday, temporarily freezing all of his assets.
The Russian oligarch has come under scrutiny for his relationship— one that he vehemently denies— with Russian president Vladimir Putin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The English Premier League has supported Ukrainians during the invasion by having moments of silence before matches, changing captains’ armbands to blue and yellow colors, and advertising supportive messaging.
Chelsea is now in limbo as a club and faces a multitude of repercussions as a result of the government’s decision— one that has not gone over well with supporters.
Roman Abramovich Sanctioned
There were rumblings that Abramovich was going to be sanctioned in the week leading up to the ultimate decision. The billionaire had already put his home in England on the market with a humble $261 valuation.
Abramovich’s most prized possession, Chelsea, faces an uncertain future now that its owner has been reprimanded.
The club had been put up for sale and multiple negotiations were in progress when the government’s decision hit, thereby shutting down any possibility of a sale until the sanctions are lifted, or Abramovich turns control over to the government.
All player sales and contract negotiations have also been paused as a result of the government’s interjection, which presents multiple problems for the team. Club captain César Azpilicueta is out of a deal this summer and has been linked to a move to FC Barcelona, while standout defender Antonio Rüdiger is in a similar situation amid interest from Real Madrid.
Chelsea is also unable to sell tickets for upcoming matches and has had its bank account frozen by the people in power. Season-ticket holders will still have their purchases honored but no new sales can be completed.
The Blues managed to rally around the uncertainty and scored a 3-1 away win against Norwich City FC behind a dominating first half. Academy product and club golden boy Mason Mount notably clutched the club’s badge on his jersey and gave it a kiss after scoring in the 14th minute.
Blowback from the Decision
Roman Abramovich has long denied his ties to Putin, claims he has doubled-down on lately.
The Russian owner admitted that he was going to create a charitable foundation for Ukrainian victims and rebuilding efforts and was going to donate the proceeds from the club’s sale to the fund, sacrificing nearly $2 billion in reparations from the money he loaned to the club.
Abramovich has also been reported to be at the center of peace negotiations in Russia, though this did not affect the government’s decision.
Chelsea’s main sponsor Three, a British telecommunications and internet service provider, suspended their partnership with Chelsea amid the sanctions. Other high-profile sponsors have also begun to pull out of their deals with the club.
Team manager Thomas Tuchel has remained steadfast during the hectic times, as has been his reputation at Chelsea.
“We take it day by day,” Tuchel told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I didn’t see that coming yesterday and I don’t know what is coming tomorrow.”
Tuchel has stated that he wishes to remain at Chelsea throughout the chaos, but his coworkers have not been as fortunate; many employees have been partially or fully laid off as team shops and other basic operations shut down, while club Director Marina Granovskaia is rumored to be next out the door for new ownership because of her relationship with Abramovich.
Chelsea is still allowed to travel to and play in matches as long as “reasonable” costs do not exceed roughly $26,000 per trip.
The government said that it will consider a special exemption to allow the sale of the club to go through so long as it does not benefit Abramovich. It is unknown where the revenue from the sale would go, although many are crying for it to be donated to Ukraine as the Russian owner intended.
Potential ownership groups remain optimistic that a deal can be completed soon.