Matt Dunham / AP
In an unprecedented verdict against a club owner, the Premier League on Saturday ordered Roman Abramovich to stop leading Chelsea and sell up after being sanctioned by the British government over Russia’s war against Ukraine and his close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The league board’s decision to disqualify Abramovich from being director accelerates the end of the Russian oligarch’s 19 years in control of the reigning world champions and European champions, but the club, which turned into a multi-year trophy winner with its investment, is allowed to continue playing.
League rules will normally require Abramovich to relinquish control within 28 days, but the UK government now has influence over the sale process under the terms of the license, which allow the team to continue operations despite the owner’s assets being frozen.
The government welcomed the Premier League’s move against Abramovich, characterizing the disqualification as part of holding “those who have enabled the Putin regime” accountable.
“We are open to a sale of the club and will consider a license application to allow that to happen,” the government said.
The government is now overseeing the acquisition process that Raine Group, an investment bank, has been working on since Abramovich announced last week before being sanctioned that the club was for sale.
A consortium weighing a bid includes Todd Boehly, co-owner of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein, a London-based real estate investor who is CEO of Cain International.
There was another financial hit for Chelsea on Saturday when sponsor Hyundai with jersey sleeves suspended its marketing with the club for the time being and asked to have its logo removed. It follows that the main man behind the shirt, Three, the communications company, is also suspending its partnership. But jersey maker Nike is facing Chelsea ahead of a potential takeover.
The businessman has not yet condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Abramovich initially hoped to divert the proceeds from a sale to a new base for the victims of the war in Ukraine, which he has not yet condemned Putin for launching. But the government will only sanction a sale that does not see Abramovich’s advantage, as the government tightens the screw on influential people it considers to enable Putin’s regime.
The government on Saturday eased one of the terms of the license, which limits Chelsea’s finances, and raised the ceiling for game day expenses to operate Stamford Bridge from £ 500,000 to £ 900,000 ($ 1.2 million) ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Newcastle.
Chelsea got company credit cards from Barclaycard frozen as a result of the sanctions.
After disqualifying Abramovich, the Premier League confirmed that “the board’s decision does not affect the club’s ability to train and play its matches.”
Some Chelsea fans have continued to stand by Abramovich during the first two weeks of the war, even shouting his name at a match last weekend that the league hoped to use to show solidarity with Ukraine and the victims for Russia’s invasion.
Chelsea have seen success under Abramovich’s ownership
Abramovich’s disqualification stops the reign of the competition’s first foreign billionaire owner, whose fortune made Chelsea one of the most consuming clubs in Europe and one of the game’s most successful. His investment ended Chelsea’s 50-year domestic title drought when the league was won in 2005 and the trophy has been collected four more times.
The team has collected 21 trophies since 2004 thanks to spending on players who have seen Abramovich inject more than £ 1.5 billion ($ 2 billion) into Chelsea through loans he said he would not ask to be repaid.
Sanctions were imposed on Abramovich after the government called him a “pro-Kremlin oligarch” linked to “destabilizing … undermining and threatening” Ukraine, where the war is in its third week. Abramovich has not commented since he was sanctioned.
Abramovich has been without a British visa since 2018, when he withdrew an application for renewal of his visa due to a crackdown on wealthy Russians after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in the English town of Salisbury.
Abramovich has since acquired citizenship in both Israel and Portugal. But there are studies in Portugal of how Abramovich was naturalized as a citizen based on having received confirmation that he is a descendant of Sephardic Jews. A rabbi in the city has been detained, police said Saturday, without confirming local media reports that he was questioned in relation to Abramovich being granted Portuguese citizenship.
Roman Abramovich has been ordered by the Chelsea Football League to sell: NPR
Source link Roman Abramovich has been ordered by the Chelsea Football League to sell: NPR