‘Anyone connected to Vladimir Putin should be treated like a leper, but we just feel sad’: Chelsea fans have mixed feelings about Roman Abramovich’s reign and admit they are ‘worried’ about the club’s future after the Russian was sanctioned
- Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the government
- It leaves the Blues in an uncertain position and supporters are now concerned
- Some fans have said Abramovich deserves to be sanctioned amid ties to Putin
- But they fear for the club’s future with Chelsea facing restricted operations
And so the bell has finally tolled on Roman Abramovich and perhaps even Chelsea as an elite entity within football.
A little after 9am, the statement dropped and so did an axe on a man we never really knew. Or chose not to.
Time was that we might call the government’s announcement of his sanctioning a bombshell, but these circumstances would make such terminology rather crass indeed.
Real explosions in Ukraine have shifted perspectives, and by midday on Thursday the faintest echoes were being heard around Stamford Bridge.
‘I look at this stadium and what Roman built and this is hard,’ said James Blount, a Chelsea fan of 40 years. ‘I really remember what it was like when we were s***.
‘So that is what you need to understand about what it has been like since Roman came in. That day in 2010 when we won the double, it was everything for me. He gave us memories I never thought we’d have. Now how are we meant to feel about it?
‘I know what the answer should be because of what is happening in Ukraine. Anyone connected to Vladimir Putin should be treated like a leper. But you ask a fan and we just feel a bit sad. He has to go, but it’s a real shame it has to be like this.’
Roman Abramovich has left Chelsea in an uncertain position after being sanctioned
His close ties with Putin have left fans admitting he deserved to be punished, but mant are now concerned for the club’s future
As Blount spoke, a few dozen others were milling about. But it wasn’t a rally or a protest, even as the first of the changes kicked in.
At around 11am, the club store abruptly stopped doing business and asked punters to leave. Next it was the adjoining Millennium Hotel, which stopped taking bookings.
That, incidentally, was the hotel Abramovich threw open to NHS workers during the pandemic – folk loved him for that, as they did for 21 trophies across 19 years.
But we think differently about a lot of that now. ‘I am concerned about the club,’ said Ryan Hoskins, 28. He was one of 40 or so boarding a coach from the stadium for the Norwich fixture.
‘I’m not sure many of us are thinking about the game. I can’t imagine how the players feel.
‘We are all worried about where the club will end up. But there is a bigger picture when you think what is happening in Ukraine.’
Fans can no longer buy tickets or merchandise while Abramovich is being sanctioned by the UK Government
Certainly bigger than the one seen by those fans who chanted for Abramovich during the applause for Ukraine at Burnley on Saturday.
‘That was disgraceful,’ said Hoskins, but it was also indicative of football’s blinding tribal culture. For a time that insulated some from the realities of Abramovich’s wealth, but no longer.
‘There were always suspicions about the money,’ said David Brothwood, who was there in 1983 when Chelsea beat Bolton to avoid relegation to the third tier.
Some supporters have been vocal in their support of the owner amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but others have called the chanting ‘disgraceful’
There are fears that all of Chelsea’s achievements under Abramovich could now be tainted
He added: ‘I was also in Moscow when they got to the Champions League final in 2008. Abramovich did that for us, so there are a lot of mixed feelings right now.
‘I have been going to Chelsea for 45 years. There has always been drama – on the pitch, off it, the fans, the players. Of course this isn’t like that – this is way bigger and no one can pretend it isn’t, but no one wanted it to end like this.
‘I will support them whatever comes next. But it might be a bit different.’
It just might.
What Chelsea now can and can’t do following sanctions on Abramovich
- Play all their matches, home and away;
- Pay the salaries of players and staff;
- Provide stewards, security and food and drink for fans;
- Receive TV broadcasting revenues;
- Club sale could potentially still go ahead, as long as Abramovich does not benefit financially.
- Sell tickets to home or away fans – only existing ticket holders will be allowed to attend;
- Agree any new transfers or contracts;
- Sell merchandise at the stadium or online;
- Spend more than £20,000 on away travel.