New sanctions have big implications for the future of the club.
The British government on Thursday placed sanctions and seized assets of seven known Russian oligarchs, including Chelsea F.C. owner Roman Abramovich.
The Chelsea owner is perhaps the most visible Russian oligarch, especially for anyone who follows the Premier League, as he has poured upwards of £1.5 Billion in the club in the form of personal loans.
His monetary influence has allowed Chelsea to buy some of the world’s best players and win a host of trophies along the way.
Abramovich is a majority shareholder of the Russian steel manufacturer Evraz, which has sold materials to the Russian military, who are now involved in a brutal war in Ukraine.
The U.K. government claims: “Evraz PLC is or has been involved in providing financial services, or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine – which includes potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks.”
Abramovich recently announced that he was abdicating his stewardship of Chelsea to trustees. Some say that was just a PR play, as he’d still be owner on paper and would still rake in profits.
However, a few days later Abramovich announced his plans to sell the club. He claimed any profit would be donated to victims of his country’s invasion of Ukraine. He would also reportedly forego the massive loan he’s made to the club over his 18 years in charge.
The sanctions announced Thursday put that sale on hold, and place new limitations on the club.
Chelsea cannot sell any merchandise or tickets for upcoming games. Anybody who already has a ticket to an upcoming match, and the roughly 25,000 season ticket holders will still be allowed to attend matches and buy concessions.
No new contracts or transfers for new players may be completed while the club is under government control, and the travel budget for the club per game is reduced to £20,000 per match – might mean busses instead of planes.
The only worse outcome for the club would be the government seized Chelsea as an asset taking over operational control. To be clear, the move by the UK government falls short of that.
They do however immediately put the competitive future of Chelsea in significant limbo, as the planned sale of the club is going to be slowed down as it has to go through government controls.
Abramovich has to agree to the UK government taking over the sale process.
He‘d also have to likely agree to any net proceeds of a sale going to a group of the governments choosing, instead of one of his.
If for some reason Abramovich doesn't, he'll just be holding on to a decaying club that will eventually be worth nothing.
While that gets sorted, the club can not negotiate any new contracts for key players or bring in any new talent.
Players currently can’t leave either. FIFA recently allowed foreign players in Russia to break their club contracts. Theres doesn’t appear to be a similar move being readied as of now for Chelsea players.
Chelsea’s shirt sponsor Three say that they are reviewing their agreement with the club, which is believed to expire in 2023. At the time of its agreement, it was said to be worth around £40m a year.