Road Works Ahead: The Bridge Is Closed
Gillian Allison Gracias reports on the recent news of the sanctioning of Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich by the UK government, detailing the implications it will have for the club.
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC, is one of seven oligarchs targeted in an estimated £15 billion sanction hit. These sanctions see Abramovich’s assets frozen, transactions with UK individuals and businesses prohibited, and a travel ban imposed. This is a part of the UK’s efforts to isolate Vladimir Putin and the wealthiest and most influential Russians closest to him. Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes “there can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine” (GOV.UK).
Chelsea FC has been granted the status of a ‘significant cultural asset’ by the government, allowing them to continue playing. However, the impact of sanctions on Abramovich blocks the potential sale of the football club. It also means that the club cannot generate ‘new’ revenue. Therefore, tickets can no longer be sold, the club shop has been closed, and the Stamford Bridge hotel cannot accept any new bookings for the foreseeable future. Season-ticket holders and fans who bought tickets before the imposition of the sanctions remain valid. However, the club’s supporters have not been able to purchase tickets for upcoming Champions League and FA Cup matches.
In addition to this devastating blow to the Stamford Bridge faithful, these sanctions mean that no transfers or contract renewals for players will be permitted. As it stands, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, and Cesar Azpilicueta are set to leave, as their contracts expire at the end of this season. Though the sanctions are only currently in place until May 30, if they were lifted, it would still give the club minimal turnaround time to sort out contracts that would expire days later. Furthermore, the frozen broadcast and prize money will mean the club will struggle to pay salaries and, thereby, be forced to release even more star players from their contracts. Losing much of their team for free would see Chelsea quickly fall down the ranks of the Premier League. Abramovich can appeal the decision by the UK government; however, there is no indication whether he will do so.