On February 24, Russia began its invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. As nations began to place sanctions on Russian President, Vladimir Putin, eyes turned to the Russian 1%. On March 2, Chelsea FC owner and Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, made a shocking statement saying that he has passed “stewardship and care” of his English Premier League team to the trustees of the club’s foundation. Abramovich made no statement on handing over ownership of the club. Then, sanctions began to be placed on Russian oligarchs all around the world, prompting Abramovich to put Chelsea up for sale for over $3 billion. Before Abramovich could pull a sale off, the U.K government seized control of the club with sanctions being placed on the Russian.
While this move by the UK government has been politically accepted by the majority of the world, many Chelsea fans are sad to see Abramovich (and his money) leave. Roman Abramovich took ownership of the top-tier English Premier League team in 2003, and has now been its owner for almost 20 years. Under Abramovich’s leadership, Chelsea has won a plethora of awards. Chelsea’s men’s team have won 21 out of their 34 trophies under Abramovich: five EPL titles, two Champions League titles, one Club World Cup title, two Europa League titles, five FA Cup titles, three League Cup titles, one Super Cup title and two Community Shield titles. Chelsea’s women’s team have won all 11 of their trophies under the Russian: five EPL titles, three FA cup titles, two League Cup titles and one Community Shield title. Chelsea’s youth academy team have won nine out of their 11 trophies under Abramovich: seven FA Youth Cup titles, 2 UEFA Youth League titles. All of that is to say that Roman Abramovich has given Chelsea some of the most lucrative seasons of football the Premier League has ever seen.
Roman Abramovich has remained very cooperative throughout the process. When he initially set his club up for sale, Abramovich declared that he had ordered the creation of a charitable foundation where all of the net proceeds of the sale would be placed; the foundation was to be for “the benefit of all the victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.” Furthermore, Abramovich has been present in the negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian parties.
The future of Chelsea FC is indefinitely unknown. Any interested buyers would need to meet with the U.K government to gain approval to approach the club. Currently, the popular rumors are circulating Todd Boehly (part owner of the L.A Dodgers), Sir Martin Broughton (an English businessman) and the Ricketts family (owners of the Chicago Cubs).
In this difficult time for Chelsea, the club and players have been strained. Multiple sponsors of the club have hinted at pulling investments out of the club, the U.K government has halted any player transfers from being negotiated and the club is not allowed to sell any tickets to their home games apart from the ones already sold. Though the club is in a time of unease, Chelsea’s manager, Thomas Tuchel, has remained as optimistic as one can, stating that as long as the team have enough shirts to wear and gas in the buses, they will simply keep competing.
Sources: Chelsea FC, Washington Post, ESPN, The Guardian, The Independent, AP News