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Chelsea sale on hold as Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK government

Premier League club given special licence to continue operation as owner sees UK assets frozen.

10 March 2022 PA

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  • Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on 2nd March in wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine
  • Special licence means club can play fixtures, pay staff and have existing ticket holders at games
  • Team’s shirt sponsor Three also suspends deal with club

Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government, freezing the Russian-Israeli billionaire’s planned sale of English soccer giants Chelsea.

Abramovich has owned the Premier League club since 2003 but put the club up for sale on 2nd March in the wake of Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

A host of parties have signalled interest in buying Chelsea and the UK government has now confirmed that it could still oversee a sale.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are now talking to Chelsea Football Club and those conversations will continue. It would be part of those discussions the terms of any specific licence that’s granted to allow any sale to proceed.

“The important thing is under no circumstances would any sale allow Roman Abramovich to profit from that or take any money from that sale.

“It’s fair to say the government is open to the sale of the club but currently it would require another licence and that would require further conversation with the Treasury and other departments.”

Chelsea will be subject to a transfer ban and be blocked from negotiating new contracts with current players, after all of Abramovich’s UK assets were frozen.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said on Twitter: ‘Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account.

‘Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club & the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.

‘To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club.

‘I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and 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.’

Abramovich has changed the face of British soccer in his time as Chelsea owner, leading the Blues to 21 trophies in 19 years in a clean sweep of all global competitions.

But that era has been brought to a halt amid Vladimir Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Chelsea cannot sell any new tickets to supporters, but all tickets sold before 10th March will be honoured.

Season ticket holders can still attend matches unaffected, while refreshments can still be served at Stamford Bridge.

The sanctions are club-wide meaning all Chelsea teams, including Emma Hayes’ highly-successful women’s team, are affected.

Chelsea matches can still be broadcast, while only existing club merchandise can be sold. There are also limits on the amount that can be spent on travel by any team representing Chelsea – UK£20,000 (US$26,000) – and on costs for staging home matches – UK£500,000 (US$655,000).

The travel budget limit had brought into question the club’s ability to fulfil away ties in Europe for the rest of the season, but the PA news agency understands there is a degree of flexibility on the limits set out in the licence, particularly around European fixtures.

The Blues said in a statement they were seeking permission for the licence to be amended ‘in order to allow the club to operate as normal as possible’.

British billionaire Nick Candy was the latest high-profile business magnate to throw their hat into the ring for Chelsea’s sale, amid a host of suitors for the Uefa Champions League holders.

Swiss tycoon Hansjorg Wyss and American investor Todd Boehly were also in the running, with more than ten credible parties understood to have been compiling bids.

Chelsea’s shirt sponsor, telecommunications company Three, has also suspended its deal with the club.

This includes the removal of the brand logo from shirts and around Stamford Bridge until further notice.

A company spokesperson said: “We recognise that this decision will impact the many Chelsea fans who follow their team passionately. However, we feel that given the circumstances, and the government sanction that is in place, it is the right thing to do.”

The three-year deal was announced in January 2020, with the company logos appearing on shirts from the start of last season.

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