Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government, which could have a huge effect on jobs at the London club.
Abramovich is one of seven Russian oligarchs hit with sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans. The Government has targeted suspected allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Government has come under massive pressure to come down hard on Russian oligarchs in the UK after Putin’s widely-condemned invasion of Ukraine.
The freeze on assets is potentially disastrous for Chelsea – who won the Champions League in 2021 – as the club is included as one of the oil billionaire’s assets.
Abramovich hoped to sell the club for as much as £3 billion, but now the sale is on hold after the sanctions.
The club are now banned from selling match tickets, signing new players and even opening the club shop.
The club’s 28,000 season ticket holders are still allowed to attend games, but the club cannot sell any additional tickets.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “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.”
Chelsea currently employs 2,411 people, and the Government’s move could well affect jobs at the club.
The club has a turnover of $600 million and an annual wage bill of $400 million a year and has seen huge success since Abramovich took over in June 2003.
He is thought to be worth more than £10 billion ($12.5 billion) and is one of several billionaires thought to have close links to Putin.
The sanctions also include two superyachts thought to be worth £1 billion and £200 million’s worth of homes.
The seven Russian oligarchs are
- Roman Abramovich – Owner of Chelsea FC and has stakes in steel giant Evraz and Norilsk Nickel
- Oleg Deripaska has stakes in En+ Group
- Igor Sechin is the Chief Executive of Rosneft
- Andrey Kostin is Chairman of VTB bank
- Alexei Miller is CEO of energy company Gazprom
- Nikolai Tokarev is president of the Russian state-owned pipeline company Transneft
- Dmitri Lebedev is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Rossiya
In a tweet, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries stressed the Government was targeting Putin’s allies and holding those who have “enabled the Putin regime” to account.
She stressed staff would still get paid, despite the sanctions.
She said: “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 & 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.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added: “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.”
Chelsea FC has yet to comment on the Government’s decision.