Chelsea sale on hold

Abramovich among seven more oligarchs sanctioned

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich is selling Chelsea FC (pic: SNS Group)

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, also the biggest shareholder in Russian steelmaker Evraz, has been added to the UK’s sanctions list, putting the sale of the west London club on hold and freezing its assets.

He is among seven oligarchs, who also include his one-time business partner Oleg Deripaska, to be hit with an asset freeze and travel bans under a new list unveiled today.

Rosneft boss Igor Sechin and four more described as being in Putin’s ‘inner circle’ are also on the list. They are said to have a collective net worth of £15 billion.

Mr Abramovich will not be allowed to sell Premier League and current European Champions Chelsea under new measures to ensure he cannot profit from its activities.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries acknowledged that the action against Mr Abramovich would have an impact on Chelsea FC but a special licence would enable it to continue operating.

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However, it will be unable to transfer players or agree any new contracts. Existing staff and players will still be paid and catering services provided at matches. There will be controls imposed on the sale of match tickets and it must close its club shop.

Conrad Wiacek, head of sport analysis at GloblalData, said the sanctions cast a shadow over Chelsea’s many commercial agreements Within hours, telecom brand 3 announced it had suspended its $52.5 (£40m) million front-of-shirt deal. The club also has a $72 million kit deal with Nike.

“While Chelsea has a sporting licence to continue trading as a soccer club, many brands will be wary of guilt by association,” said Mr Wiacek.

“Chelsea FC is still one of the biggest clubs in the world and its on-field success still makes it an attractive commercial partner. However, given the rate at which many brands are looking to dissociate themselves from the Russian state, some may be wary of continuing partnerships.

“Nike’s deal with Chelsea runs until 2032, so the apparel brand may decide to wait the situation out until the club’s sale is able to continue. However, brands such as Hyundai and Hublot, which have deals worth over $20 million combined expiring at the end of 2021/22 season, may not have that luxury.”

Shares in Evraz fell 10.54p (11.39%) on the London Stock Exchange. Yesterday the company attempted to distance itself from Mr Abramovich and any other high profile Russians and said business was continuing as normal.

Mr Abramovich transferred his 28.64% shareholding in Evraz to himself from an offshore company on 16 February, just days before Putin launched his attack on Ukraine.

The Foreign Office said the Economic Crime Bill coming into force next week “will allow UK Government to move further and faster than ever on sanctions”.

Prime Minister 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 said in a statement: “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.”

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