For over two decades, Roman Abramovich has been an invincible billionaire free to bankroll Chelsea’s remarkable success, but everything changed on Thursday morning.
The United Kingdom slapped sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs it believes have direct ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime, following two weeks of increasing pressure to act amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich, along with Igor Sechin, Oleg Deripaska, Dmitri Lebedev, Alexei Miller, Andrei Kostin, and Nikolai Tokarev, has had his assets frozen and faces a ban on all transactions with U.K. individuals and businesses.
In a document accompanying the decision published by the Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, the U.K. government offered a comprehensive and damning view.
“Abramovich is associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilizing Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades,”
it read. “This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia.”
The UK Government’s decision to penalize Roman Abramovich as part of its ongoing response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine puts the club’s financial future in jeopardy.
It means Abramovich will no longer be able to sell Chelsea or profit from their ownership. The club is now subject to a special government license that severely restricts what they can and cannot do and makes non-compliance a criminal offense.
Repercussions on Chelsea
With those sanctions in place and Chelsea as an asset frozen, only season ticket holders and those who have already purchased tickets will be able to attend Chelsea games from now on.
The team is no longer allowed to transfer or loan players, and both broadcast and prize money has been blocked.
The official Chelsea club shop was forced to close at midday on Thursday. The club can, however, continue to play fixtures and incur “fair travel charges” to and from games up to a maximum of £20,000. Fans attending games will still be able to purchase food and beverages.
Three, the British telecommunications company that is the team’s primary shirt sponsor on a deal worth roughly £40 million per year, has revealed that it is suspending its affiliation with the club.
A spokesperson said: “In light of the government’s recently announced sanctions, we have requested Chelsea Football Club temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from shirts and around the stadium until further notice.
Hyundai, Chelsea’s shirt sleeve sponsor, has also released a statement. It reads: “Hyundai has become one of the strongest partners in football over the years & the company supports the sport to be a force for good. We are currently assessing the situation with Chelsea FC.” The car manufacturer’s deal is reportedly worth £10m a year.