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Chelsea in a state of crisis as owner Abramovich is hit by UK sanctions

Roman Abramovich, the infamous owner of Chelsea Football Club, has today been struck by a travel ban and had his full assets frozen by the UK government. This comes after the billionaire Russian oligarch was alleged by MP’s to have existing financial and personal ties with authoritarian Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Whilst Chelsea have been granted a special license that allows them to fulfil their remaining fixtures, this license is strictly limited to “football-related activity”. Chelsea’s owner cannot put any money into the club, nor take any money out of it, for at least the foreseeable future.

The sale of match tickets and merchandise have both been put on hold, and only those with existing season-ticket purchases will be allowed to attend Chelsea matches. The Blues’ broadcast money and potential prize money will also be frozen, and the club will be restricted from signing new players, renewing existing player contracts and perhaps most importantly of all, being sold as an asset, as was planned by Abramovich.

It is understood, however, that the government may consider allowing Abramovich to apply for a special license to facilitate the sale of the club, so long as he can prove that he would not financially benefit from the sale.

If the current UEFA Champions League holders can’t hand out new contracts by the time of their expiration come June 30th, then the club faces losing the likes of Antonio Rüdiger, César Azpilicueta, and Andreas Christensen on free transfers, as well as a number of prominent Women’s first-team players.

Chelsea’s main shirt sponsor, ‘Three’, a British telecommunications and internet provider, are said to be “reviewing the situation and are in discussions with Chelsea FC” over the future of their £40m a year deal with the club, which was planned to run until at least the 2023/24 season, with a further option to extend.

The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said: “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine. Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people.”

“The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands,” said UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss.

Chelsea are currently being run at a financial loss on a day-to-day basis, with Abramovich having subsidised the difference since 2003 in debts totalling £1.5bn. For the year ending June 2021, the club recorded a loss of £145.6m, although it must be said that this number has been inflated by the consequences of the pandemic.

If he is unable to inject his own funds into the club, coupled with the hits to revenue as a direct result of the sanctions, Chelsea could face severe financial turmoil. If Chelsea were to, in a worst-case scenario, go into administration, they would be subject to a 9-point deduction in the Premier League, therefore potentially threatening their status as a UEFA Champions League club. This news has thrown one of football’s most reputable clubs into a never-before-seen crisis for the indefinite future.

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Metin Yilmaz

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June 2022
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