In an unprecedented ruling against a club owner, the Premier League on Saturday ordered Roman Abramovich to stop managing Chelsea and sell after being sanctioned by the British government for Russia’s war on Ukraine and its close ties with President Vladimir Putin.
The league board’s decision to disqualify Abramovich from being a director hastens the end of the Russian oligarch’s 19 years in charge of the reigning world and European champions, but the club that turned into a trophy winner eternal thanks to his investment is allowed to play.
League regulations would typically require Abramovich to relinquish control within 28 days, but the UK government now has a say in the sale process under the terms of the license which allows the team to continue operating despite the freezing of the owner’s assets.
The government hailed the Premier League’s decision against Abramovich, characterizing the disqualification as part of holding accountable “those who enabled Putin’s regime”.
“We are open to a sale of the club and would consider applying for a license to allow that to happen,” the government said.
The government is now overseeing the takeover process which the Raine Group, an investment bank, has been working on since Abramovich announced last week, before he was sanctioned, that the club was for sale.
A consortium weighing up a bid includes Todd Boehly, co-owner of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein, a London-based property investor and CEO of Cain International.
Chelsea suffered another blow on Saturday when shirt sleeve sponsor Hyundai suspended marketing with the club until further notice and asked for their logo to be removed. It follows the main supporter of the jersey Three, the communication company, also suspending its partnership. But shirt maker Nike is standing by Chelsea ahead of a possible takeover.
Abramovich originally hoped to divert proceeds from a sale to a new foundation for victims of the war in Ukraine, which he has yet to condemn Putin for launching. But the government will only sanction a sale that does not benefit Abramovich as the government tightens the screws on influential people it sees as empowering for the Putin regime.
The government eased one of the license conditions restricting Chelsea’s finances on Saturday, raising the matchday spending cap to raise Stamford Bridge from 500,000 pounds to 900,000 pounds ($1.2million) before Sunday’s Premier League game against Newcastle.
Chelsea had Barclaycard’s corporate credit cards frozen following 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 matches”.
Some Chelsea fans continued to support Abramovich through the first two weeks of the war, even chanting his name during a game last weekend which the league hoped to use to show solidarity with Ukraine and the victims of the war. Russian invasion.
Abramovich’s disqualification ends the reign of the competition’s first billionaire foreign owner, whose fortunes have made Chelsea one of the biggest spenders in Europe and one of the most successful in the game. Chelsea’s 50-year domestic title drought ended when the league was won in 2005 and the trophy was won four more times.
The team have collected 21 trophies since 2004 through player spending which has seen Abramovich inject more than 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) into Chelsea through loans he has said he will not seek no refund.
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 his sanction.
Abramovich has been without a British visa since 2018 when he withdrew an application to renew his visa amid a crackdown on wealthy Russians after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in the English town of Salisbury.
Abramovich has since been granted citizenship in Israel and Portugal. But there are inquiries in Portugal about how Abramovich was naturalized as a citizen after receiving confirmation that he is a descendant of Sephardic Jews. A city rabbi has been arrested, police said on Saturday, without confirming local media reports that he was questioned about Abramovich obtaining Portuguese citizenship.
Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain contributed to this report.
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