Chelsea are in turmoil after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK over his links to Vladimir Putin, plunging the club’s future into doubt.
On a seismic day:
- Abramovich’s assets were frozen, throwing the sale of the club into disarray, although British property tycoon Nick Candy remains interested and several others are preparing £2billion offers;
- Shirt sponsors Three suspended their £40million deal, while fellow Chelsea partners Nike, Hyundai, Parimatch and Zapp consider ending their agreements;
- Chelsea chiefs held urgent talks with the Government in the hope of lessening the impact of stringent restrictions placed on the club, amid fears they may not be able to complete the season;
- Chelsea were told they cannot renew contracts or buy any players;
- Rival Premier League clubs circled like vultures to sign young footballers who were due to join Chelsea.
The dramatic news on Thursday effectively means Abramovich can no longer press ahead with selling the club.
However, Chelsea can request special dispensation, which would be considered if the Government views a change of ownership in the best interests of the club, provided it does not benefit Abramovich.
Chelsea are in turmoil and may struggle to finish the season after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK
Abramovich (above) saw his assets frozen, throwing the pending sale of the club into disarray
Abramovich was sanctioned over his links to Vladimir Putin (right), plunging the club’s future into doubt
In that scenario, it is likely that the Government would take control of the sale and the proceeds would be frozen or go into a charitable fund, possibly for the war victims in Ukraine.
That effectively leaves Abramovich with two options: agree to the Government’s conditions and lose the club for nothing, or let Chelsea slowly rot.
It is likely the Russian billionaire will proceed with the sale to preserve the club’s future, even though that means he would not receive a penny for an asset he was looking to sell for £3bn last week.
A number of parties remain in the running, including Candy, whose attempts to buy Chelsea were revealed by Sportsmail earlier this week.
Chelsea were holding talks on Thursday night with the Government amid concerns they will struggle to complete the campaign.
The dramatic news on Thursday effectively means Abramovich can no longer press ahead with selling the club
British property tycoon Nick Candy (left) though remains interested, while several bidders are preparing bids in excess of £2billion
Blues officials proposed amendments to the licence issued to allow them to operate.
Under a wide-ranging raft of restrictions, Chelsea were left unable to sell match tickets, forced to close the club shop and blocked from taking bookings for the Stamford Bridge hotel.
They were told they can no longer buy or sell players, or offer new contracts, and were restricted to a maximum spend of £20,000 on travel to away matches.
They were informed that they can only pay ‘reasonable costs’ towards hosting home fixtures, ‘not exceeding £500,000 per fixture, per team’.
Shirt sponsors Three also suspended their £40million deal with the club following the announcement of the sanctions
Chelsea were left unable to sell match tickets and were also forced to close the club shop
But there is a view the limits on transport and hosting matches will need to be raised to stop the club losing money.
Chelsea will continue to receive TV broadcast payments and prize money, but this will be frozen. Existing staff and players will continue to be paid.
The club will also ask for clarity over contracts, with a number of star players’ deals due to expire at the end of the season.
As it stands, Chelsea cannot renew any contracts – meaning defenders Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta will leave in the summer.
As it stands, the club cannot renew existing contracts – which effectively means Antonio Rudiger (right) and Cesar Azpilicueta (left) will leave the club in the summer
Manager Thomas Tuchel and his players were addressed by club officials before Thursday night’s win at Norwich and urged to focus on the football, despite the huge uncertainty.
The Blues could lose millions in sponsorship revenue following Thursday’s developments.
Shirt sponsors Three have put their £40m agreement on hold and kit suppliers Nike, who agreed a 15-year, £900m deal with Chelsea in 2016, are considering walking away. That would see the club miss out on £540m.
To top it all, Chelsea’s rivals are lining up to take advantage of their plight, with two players who were due to sign for the Blues’ academy already approached by other high-ranking Premier League clubs, given the ban on the Blues bringing in fresh talent.
Thomas Tuchel and his players were addressed by club officials ahead of their win at Norwich
Kit suppliers Nike are considering walking away which would see the club miss out on £540m
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, subject to a £500,000 spending cap;
- Receive TV broadcasting revenues and prize money – although this will be frozen;
- 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;
- Carry out any building work on Stamford Bridge.
Meanwhile Pat Nevin, who played for the club 193 times, later revealed on BBC 5Live that some members of the club’s staff had already been ‘partially laid off’ in the wake of Thursday’s financial sanctions.
The former Blues star, who still writes for the club’s website, also warned that Chelsea’s future remains ‘in serious danger’ and called on Abramovich to sell to the ‘right people’.
Three UK’s decision to suspend its sponsorship deal with Chelsea sets up a possible wave of corporate boycotts that could see the club deprived of tens of millions of pounds worth of revenue and facing financial meltdown.
Analysts say other sponsors are likely to follow Three in the hope of avoiding ‘guilt by association’ with Abramovich, who officials say owes at least part of his £9.4billion fortune to his friendship with Vladimir Putin.
Last year, Chelsea made £154m from commercial deals despite the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, before Covid struck, the club earned £200m in sponsorship.
Three’s announcement came hours after the company announced packages to support Ukrainian refugees arriving into the UK, including free pre-paid 30-day pay-as-you-go sim cards.
The £20,000 cap on travel for away matches also raises serious logistical questions for the club’s Champions League game in Lille next Wednesday, although Sky Sports reported claims by a Chelsea player’s agent that the club had already paid for this year’s travel in advance.
There is also the prospect that Champions League games will be played effectively behind closed doors, as those tickets are often purchased separately from season tickets.
Executives are also said to be concerned about the maximum spend of £500,000 for hosting home games, which includes costs like stewarding, security and catering supplies.
On Thursday, Chelsea confirmed it ‘intended to engage in discussions with the UK Government regarding the scope of the licence’.
The embargo on ticket sales will cost the club more than £600,000 a game, based on a £47 minimum ticket cost for the 12,834 seats at Stamford Bridge that are not already occupied by season ticket holders.
Abramovich, whose tainted billions propelled Chelsea from mid-table mediocrity to five Premier League titles, has been banned from doing business in the UK – meaning his plan to sell the club is on hold.
Former Blues star Pat Nevin, who played 193 times for Chelsea, warned their future remains ‘in serious danger’ following Thursday’s announcement that Abramovich was facing sanctions
Ministers are understood to be clear that it is ultimately a matter for Abramovich whether he sells, but any assets realised will remain frozen.
The club – which on Thursday marked its 117th birthday – cannot sell any merchandise itself, but retailers who already hold stock can continue to do so, as long as none of the money ends up in Chelsea’s hands.
The licence to continue operating will last until May 31, but can be ‘varied, revoked or suspended’ at any time. If the club were to end up in administration, they would receive a nine point penalty.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the aim of Thursday’s measures was to ensure that Abramovich cannot ‘benefit from his ownership’.
Abramovich has overseen the most successful period in Chelsea’s history, winning 21 trophies – including five Premier League titles and the Champions League twice
Boris Johnson said: ‘There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine.
‘Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added: ‘Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society. 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.
‘Our support for Ukraine will not waver. We will not stop in this mission to ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine.’