Chelsea sale on hold after Roman Abramovich added to sanctions list

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Ukraine war: Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK

The move sees Chelsea frozen as an asset and a number of measures imposed but the club have been given special permission to continue with ‘football-related activities’

Roman Abramovich was this morning sanctioned by the UK Government, blocking his immediate plans to sell the European champions and resulting in huge implications for fans.

The Russian billionaire has had his assets frozen because of his links with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, it was confirmed.

The news means his attempts to sell the club which was hastily announced last week have been put on hold for now, despite at least 20 prospective buyers declaring an interest.

A sale may yet go ahead, but Abramovich would have to hand over the process to the UK Government, and it would be under the strict proviso that he does not benefit financially in any way.

Despite today’s sanctions, Chelsea will still be allowed to operate, after being granted a special licence to continue football-related activity.

That still leaves massive doubts over the club’s future, with sanctions meaning:

  • No new tickets allowed to be sold.
  • The club face a transfer embargo, with loans and permanent deals banned.
  • No monies from merchandising allowed to go to Chelsea, with the club shop closed.
  • Strict limits on costs of hosting home matches and travel for away fixtures.
  • Broadcast revenues frozen.

Described as a pro-Kremlin oligarch, Abramovich has been hit with an asset freeze and a travel ban in an updated sanctions list published on Thursday after ministers came under sustained pressure to target him.

The government document says he has had a “close relationship for decades” with the Russian president. “This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the government of Russia,” it says.

The move sees Chelsea frozen as an asset but given special permission to continue operating as a football club although no match tickets or club merchandise can be sold. The proposed sale is also now barred although the government could give special dispensation to a deal, if Abramovich doesn’t profit from it financially.

Player transfers and new contracts are also not permitted while there are now caps in place on travel and other day-to-day running costs.

Chelsea reassurances

While the sanctions against him throw Chelsea’s future in doubt, ministers sought to reassure the club it would not be “unnecessarily harmed”.

In a tweet, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said holding those who have “enabled the Putin regime to account” was the priority.

“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended,” she wrote.

Chelsea has enjoyed major success since Mr Abramovich bought the club in 2003 for £140m, winning major titles including the Champions League, the Premier League and the FA Cup.

Mr Abramovich has previously said that proceeds of the club’s sale would be donated to victims of war.

On Wednesday, there were 20 credible interested parties looking at a potential Chelsea takeover, including British businessman Nick Candy.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government had targeted the oligarchs to “ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine”.

She said: “With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression.

“The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the sanctions were the “right decision” but “should not have taken the government weeks”.

“Too few oligarchs linked to Putin’s rogue regime have so far faced sanctions from the UK government,” Mr Lammy said.

The government has been accused of moving slower than western allies the US and the EU in its sanctioning of individuals linked to President Putin.

The government’s Economic Crime Bill, which is expected to become law later this month, is designed to harden and quicken these sanctions.

The government says the bill will also stop wealthy Russians using the City of London for money laundering and hiding gains linked to organised crime.

Many people are asking why it took a war? The majority of Russian oligarchy money was theft from the workers of Russia

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