Chelsea FC owner Abramovich among many to be hit with new sanctions

Published by Scott Challinor on March 11th 2022, 2:02pm

Roman Abramovich, the oligarch owner of Chelsea FC, is among the latest to be sanctioned by the UK government following Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Abramovich [pictured] is one of seven oligarchs to be newly added to the sanctioned list, alongside fellow billionaires Igor Sechin and Oleg Deripaska. Then on Friday, the UK government added 386 Russian parliamentarians to the sanctions list, all of whom voted to recognise the two rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as independent.

All sanctioned individuals have been subject to asset freezes and have been banned from travelling to the UK, and the latest wave means that 400 out of 450 members of Russia's Duma, the lower house of its parliament, have been sanctioned.

The asset freeze imposed upon Abramovich will have an impact on the day-to-day operations of Chelsea FC. The club cannot sell any more tickets for games and only existing season ticket holders will be admitted, its merchandise shop has been forced to close, it cannot renew contracts with existing players and will be barred from any transfer market activity, including buying and selling players.

The government has said that it will issue a special licence to the club, enabling it to fulfil its fixture obligations, continue to admit season ticket holding fans, and pay staff and players.

Abramovich - who boasts an estimated net worth of £9.4 billion - had put the club on the market last week, but his inclusion on the sanctioned list will mean that any sale cannot yet proceed.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said that “there can be no safe havens” for those close to Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who endorse Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich has denied the notion that he maintains close ties with Russia’s controversial leader, but Whitehall says that he remains “one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Putin”.

The BBC has reported that should Abramovich be able to prove that he would not benefit personally from selling Chelsea FC, then a sale could be allowed to go through by government under a special licence agreement.

Abramovich has previously promised that any proceeds from the sale of the club would be donated to victims of the war in Ukraine.

Digital, Culture, Media & Sport secretary, Nadine Dorries, said that the government would “work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended.”

While the effects of the sanctions would inevitably have an impact on the income of Chelsea FC, ministers have moved to reassure that the club won’t be “unnecessarily harmed” by the impact.

Abramovich has owned the West London outfit since 2003, with his ownership culminating in multiple successes including two Champions League titles, two Europa Leagues, five Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, three EFL Cups, two FA Community Shields, one UEFA Super Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.

Reports on Wednesday suggested that 20 credible parties were interested in acquiring the club before Abramovich’s sanctions pressed pause on any potential sale.

Alongside Abramovich, Rosneft CEO Sechin and aluminium magnate Deripaska, the others to be included on the latest list of sanctioned individuals include VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, Transneft president Nikolai Tokarev, and Bank Rossiya chair Dmitri Lebedev.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said that all of those sanctioned were “complicit in [Putin’s] aggression” owing to their “close links” to the Russian premier, and that the move was necessary to “choke off funds to his brutal war machine”.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
March 11th 2022, 2:02pm

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