Chelsea can still be sold by Roman Abramovich despite the UK government freezing his assets – but only if none of the proceeds benefit the Russian oligarch.
On Thursday morning, the billionaire was finally sanctioned after the government said he had been ‘involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermined and threatened the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine’ via the steel manufacturing company Evraz PLC.
The government has permitted Chelsea to continue operating under a special license – though it prevents ticket sales, player transfers, new contracts and merchandise sales, among other things.
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale last week and had been hoping to secure around £3billion for the west London club, claiming that ‘net proceeds’ would go to ‘victims of the war in Ukraine’
That sale was expected to be put on hold for the foreseeable future following the sanctions, though now it has emerged that the Russian can still proceed if he agrees to hand over the process to the government.
According to The Telegraph, the government would decide the value of the club, and where the funds from any deal will go, and are prepared to give special dispensation to allow a sale if it is determined to be in the best interests of Chelsea.
Abramovich cannot benefit or profit from the sale, while the terms of the special license state that: ‘The permissions in this license do not authorise any act which the person carrying out the act knows, or has reasonable grounds for suspecting, will result in funds or economic resources being dealt with or made available in breach of the Russia Regulations.’
Abramovich instructed merchant bank Raine Group to conduct his search for a buyer and is believed to have received as many as 10 viable offers for the club.
Despite the sanctions, investors are still believed to remain interested and the likeliest solution would see Abramovich’s charity fund for victims of the war scrapped and replaced by a fund set up and operated by the government.
If Abramovich does not agree to let the government conduct the sale, Chelsea will remain in a state of limbo and paralysis.
Conservative MP Julian Knight tweeted: ‘I support the sanctioning of Abramovich. However, we need mechanisms put in place to ensure fans can still watch Chelsea, the club can trade and ultimately be sold with cast iron assurances that not a ruble goes back to Russia in any form.’
In confirming the sanctions against Abramovich, Secretary of State Nadine Dorries also made it clear that the government is committed to ‘protecting’ Chelsea football club.
Her statement read: ‘Putin’s attack on Ukraine continues and we are witnessing new levels of evil by the hour. Today the Government has announced further sanctions against individuals linked to the Russian Government. This list includes Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.
‘Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account. Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club and the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.
‘To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club
‘I know this brings some uncertainty, but the Government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.’