EXPLAINER: What penalties mean for Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich


A view of Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Thursday, March 10, 2022. Unprecedented restrictions have been imposed on Chelsea’s ability to operate by the British government after owner Roman Abramovich was targeted by penalties. Abramovich is one of seven wealthy Russians whose assets have been frozen by the government. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)


The decision to sanction Roman Abramovich and freeze his assets left Chelsea to continue playing only with the approval of the British government under specific conditions.

Abramovich, 55, is among seven wealthy Russians punished by Boris Johnson’s administration on Thursday for their close ties to the Kremlin, as Russia’s war against Ukraine enters a third week.

Abramovich’s sanction came on Chelsea’s 117th birthday.


Abramovich transformed Chelsea after they blew English football away in 2003 by launching the most expensive takeover of an English club.

“I just saw this amazing game and I wanted to be a part of it somehow,” Abramovich said in a rare interview with Forbes last year.

The flow of investment – before European football introduced Financial Fair Play spending control rules – quickly enabled a squad upgrade that produced a first English league title in 50 years in 2005.

Abramovich was the first of the mega-rich owners to enter English football, starting a trend that has continued, with Manchester City benefiting from Abu Dhabi investment since 2008 and Newcastle tapping into Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund since last year .

Chelsea have won five Premier League titles under Abramovich as well as two Champions League titles, the last one last year. Winning the Club World Cup last month completed the set of top honours.

The success was funded by around 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) in loans to the club which Abramovich said he did not want to repay when the club went up for sale last week.


Abramovich has used legal means to attempt to publicly distance himself from benefiting from an association with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The UK government thinks otherwise, saying Abramovich got “a financial or other material benefit from Putin and the Russian government” including tax breaks, sale of shares at favorable rates and contracts under of Russia’s preparation to host the 2018 World Cup. Cup.

Abramovich “is or has been involved in the destabilization of Ukraine” through Evraz, a steel and mining company he effectively controls and potentially supplied the Russian military, the government said.

His fortune was made in oil and aluminum after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2005, Russian energy giant Gazprom paid $13 billion for Abramovich-controlled oil company Sibneft. This allowed Putin’s Kremlin to regain state influence in the lucrative energy industry.


The sanctions could have immediately forced Chelsea to cease operating as a business and prevent its teams from completing their seasons. Instead, a special license was issued to allow it to continue operating, subject to heavy restrictions.

Only fans who already hold tickets – mainly season ticket holders – can attend matches, excluding match fans. The club shop had to close on Thursday morning. Staff at the hotel built on Stamford Bridge said they were under orders not to accept new bookings or sell food and drink.

Just £500,000 ($657,000) can be spent to organize every game at Stamford Bridge, including security and catering. A maximum of £20,000 can be spent traveling to matches. Chelsea play in France at Lille in the Champions League next week.

Recruitment of players is also banned under the government license which runs until May 31. Some players have contracts expiring at the end of the season in June and the sanctions are creating uncertainty over whether Cesar Azpilicueta, Toni Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen could be offered. new offers.


As calls grew in the British parliament for Abramovich to be punished, Chelsea were put up for sale.

“I asked my team to create a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” Abramovich said. “The foundation will benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.”

It felt like an entity that Abramovich would be involved with. The foundation could also have benefited Russian victims.

Chelsea have been looking for potential bidders to show interest by next week. But now the government is overseeing the process.

“Although the current license does not allow the sale of the club at this time, the government is open to a sale of the club and would consider applying for a new license to allow a sale,” the government said. “The proceeds of any sale could not go to the sanctioned individual while they are subject to sanctions.”


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