Abramovich announced this month that he plans to sell Chelsea, as it is “in the interest of the club, the fans and staff as well as the club’s sponsors and partners”. This came after he announced that he had given “oversight” of the club to the trustees of the club’s charitable foundation.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth Office and Development Office said in a statement on Thursday that the new sanctions would lead to a freeze on his assets and would ban “transactions with UK individuals and businesses”. The billionaire will also face a travel ban preventing him from entering the UK.
Existing season ticket holders will be allowed to attend matches as well as fans who purchased tickets before Thursday.
Fans can buy food and drink in these matches, according to the statement, and under the sanctions, third-party retailers who have purchased or produced club merchandise before Thursday will be allowed to sell their existing stock as long as no money is given to Chelsea. For now, the special license runs through May 31.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust – an independent, not-for-profit fund set up to “encourage” the club’s board of directors to “take into account the interests of all supporters” among other purposes – has expressed “concern” about the move.
“The Committee on Science and Technology is appealing to the government for a swift process to reduce uncertainty about Chelsea’s future, and for fans and fans to be awarded a gold share as part of the sale of the club.”
Repercussions for Chelsea – and its players
Ben Beebe, sports commercial expert at JMW Solicitors, told CNN Sport that unless the UK government provides a new license, Chelsea cannot be sold.
“Abramović will not be allowed to put any money in the club or withdraw any money from it. As we know, he has financed Chelsea with billions of pounds and has a 1.5 billion pounds ($1.98 billion) loan from Chelsea which he currently owes to Abramovich.”
“We don’t currently know where the money that will be paid to players is coming from – whether it is just coming from some kind of day-to-day business, ie broadcast revenue and commercial revenue. Obviously match day revenue contributes to that, and we know tickets can’t be sold No new merchandise that benefits the club or Abramovich can be sold – it only benefits retailers.”
This could have major repercussions for the club, which is already seeing sponsors considering their contracts with Chelsea.
The mobile and telecommunications company, which sponsors the Chelsea jersey, told CNN on Thursday that it was reviewing its relationship with the club after the British government imposed sanctions on Abramovich.
“If Mr. Abramovich can’t fund the club, and you also have other sources of commercial revenue coming into the club that will now start to dry up basically due to the sanctions being imposed, the long-term repercussions are very significant if there is no sale,” Pepe said.
He added that although Chelsea could negotiate with potential buyers, the club could not be sold until a special license had been granted.
“If they don’t generate any matchday commercial revenue, and won’t be able to draw on shareholder loans, where will the money come from to support the club?
“I’m expecting to find a new owner. But it will be a very different sale than it looked like, until last week.”
Pepe said the sanctions would also have repercussions for Chelsea players.
“Short-term players whose contracts run out means that these players are entitled to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season because they are out of their contract.”
For players who have contracts after the end of the season, nothing will change until May 31, Peppi said.
In the long term, he said, “It goes into this broader and broader topic about the kind of cultural, political and social impact of football as being much stronger than it has ever been.
“And will the players want to sign for Chelsea – for a club like Chelsea, a club like Newcastle – knowing the volatility of the situation in relation to the football club’s ownership structure?”
Abramovich is valued at 9.4 billion pounds ($12.36 billion), according to the UK government.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said this month that the UK was “absolutely intent” on punishing Russian oligarchs, adding that the UK was working through “another list” of oligarchs to punish them.
“There is nowhere for any of Putin’s friends to hide,” Truss said.
CNN’s George Ramsay and Alex Klusuk contributed to the report.