Government Sanctions Roman Abramovich But Says Chelsea Can Keep Playing Games
The government has announced Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is facing sanctions (Alamy)
The government has announced that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is one of a number of Russian oligarchs now facing sanctions following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
The billionaire, who has owned the West London football club for almost 20 years, announced last week he wanted to sell the team, with net proceeds from the sale to be donated to "all victims of the war in Ukraine".
The sanctions will come into force before any sale is able to take place.
An announcement from the Foreign Office said the measures will see Abramovich have “his assets frozen, a prohibition on transactions with UK individuals and businesses, a travel ban and transport sanctions imposed”.
A government document said Abramovich has had a "close relationship for decades" with Vladimir Putin which had "included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia."
His one time business partner, leading industrialist Oleg Deripaska, was also sanctioned with the same measures.
The 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.”
The culture secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed Chelsea will still be able to operate as a club in the meantime.
She tweeted: “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.”
In a statement, Dorries said the latest sanctions came as "we are witnessing new levels of evil by the hour" with Putin's attack on Ukraine.
“Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account. Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chlesea & its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club & the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions," she said.
Dorries added that Chelsea would be granted a "special licence" which would "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".
But the license will impose conditions on the club, including banning transfers of players in or out of the club.
The sale of tickets for future home and away fixtures will be also prohibited, but tickets which have already been purchased can still be used or resold.
The government said merchandise could not be sold at the clubs physical or online store, but said catering, stewarding and security would still be provided at home matches.
Speaking earlier, a Downing Street spokesperson suggested the government could be open to allowing a sale of the club to proceed, but insisted none of the proceeds of the sale would be provided to Abramovich while he was subject to sanctions.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added the sanctions showed oligarchs linked to Putin would have "no place in our economy or society".
"With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression," she added.
“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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