Roman Abramovich’s hopes of bidding a quiet and dignified goodbye to Chelsea have been put on ice after he was hit by sanctions by the UK government.
The Russian is the latest of his countrymen to be penalised by ministers, and the freezing of his assets means that the sale of the London club will have to be suspended.
With Abramovich essentially banned from bankrolling them, Chelsea – as part of the sanctions – are now barred from buying and selling players and from offering their current stars extended deals, and that could see stalwart Cesar Azpilicueta and fellow defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, who are out of contract in the summer, leave the Blues altogether.
It has also been reported that Chelsea will not be able to sell matchday tickets under the terms of a temporary operating licence, meaning that only season ticket holders and those that have already purchased tickets will be able to attend Stamford Bridge. Sales of merchandise have also been banned, and the club shop closed.
For a club that failed Financial Fair Play tests just a couple of years ago, there are now growing concerns about how deep the hole will be in the coffers with Abramovich prevented from bailing them out. He has already loaned the Londoners some £1.5 billion since 2003.
Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, said:
“The important measures announced will clearly have a direct impact on Chelsea FC and its fans, but we are working hard to make sure the club and the national game are not unnecessarily harmed.
“We have granted the club a licence so it can fulfil its fixtures, pay its staff and existing ticket holders can attend matches. We know football clubs are cultural assets and we are committed to protecting them.”
Deal Or No Deal
All of the above means that the Russian will be stopped from discussing the sale of Chelsea with interested parties, of whom there are thought to be plenty.
The Guardian has reported that a special licence could be given that would allow any takeover to be completed, although there’s no clarity offered on where or to whom the proceeds of the sale would go.
The oligarch, who has alleged close ties with Russian despot Vladimir Putin, will also have to apply to the UK government for any deal to be signed off.
Would you want to buy a football club under such stringent sanctions? It doesn’t seem to have put off Hansjorg Wyss and Todd Boehly, whose consortium is thought to be keen to press on with a takeover despite the uncertainty.
However, it has been suggested that Abramovich does not believe the duo are the right fit for Chelsea, and refused to agree to a deal until a full due diligence review of their offer was carried out.
Other names in the frame are thought to include the property entrepreneur Nick Candy and Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak, who claims the Russian told him he has a ‘90% chance’ of getting his bid over the line.