Chelsea Football Club, currently third in the Premier League standings with a 19-6-2 record, finds itself in limbo today after the UK government announced it was levying sanctions against the team’s owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions throw chaos into the team’s immediate future, meaning at minimum that it has to immediately halt all ticket sales to upcoming games.
Abramovich was among several Russian “oligarchs” who were announced as being under sanction by the UK government this week. It means that he is subject to “a full asset freeze and travel ban, and [is] prohibited from transacting with U.K. citizens or businesses,” according to reports. Abramovich had recently announced plans to sell the team, but the sanctions put an immediate halt on that, in addition to the team being forced to halt all transactions, including ticket sales, merchandise sales, and player contract or transfer decisions.
Abramovich is one of the most wealthy Russians in the world, having made billions of dollars in business in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The UK sanctions indicate him as being a close ally of, and recipient of support from, the Putin regime, which has become an international pariaiah in the wake of the invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
“There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”
According to ESPN, the sanctions have a variety of impacts on the team and its supporters:
– Chelsea cannot sell any home match tickets, although season tickets and other tickets bought before March 10 will be valid. This means there will be no away fans at Chelsea matches for any games that have not yet gone on sale.
– The club can pay the wages of all players and staff.
– Travel costs for away games limited to a maximum of £20,000.
– Cost of home games for security, catering and stewarding capped at £500,000 per game.
– Payments to and from other clubs for transfers and loans agreed before March 10 can still be made.
– Broadcasters can show Chelsea games and pay revenues, but these funds must be frozen.
– Third parties who have club merchandise can sell existing stock, but the proceeds cannot be paid to the club.
The team indicated that it has permission to continue “certain activities” from the government, but much remains to be sorted out.
“We will fulfil our men’s and women’s team fixtures today against Norwich and West Ham, respectively, and intend to engage in discussions with the UK Government regarding the scope of the licence,” the team said in a statement posted to its website. “This will include seeking permission for the licence to be amended in order to allow the Club to operate as normal as possible. We will also be seeking guidance from the UK Government on the impact of these measures on the Chelsea Foundation and its important work in our communities.
The Club will update further when it is appropriate to do so.