Roman Abramovich sanctions: what does asset freeze mean for Chelsea FC sale - and what did Boris Johnson say?

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government, meaning that his planned sale of the club is now likely be put on hold.

In a fresh set of measures aimed at punishing Vladimir Putin and his known associates following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the billionaire has been named by authorities, and will now be subject to a number of restrictions.

Abramovich had announced recently that he was aiming to sell the club, but that sale will only be allowed subject to special dispensation from the government, and on the condition that the oligarch profits from it in no way. Any potential sale is now likely to be a complicated, protracted process.

Similarly, while Chelsea will still be able to operate and compete under a special licence, they will no longer be allowed to sell additional tickets to any upcoming matches, meaning that only season ticket holders will be permitted to attend games for the foreseeable future.

What has Boris Johnson said about the sanctions on Roman Abramovich?

In a brief statement shared to his official Twitter account on Thursday morning, the Prime Minister addressed the decision to sanction Abramovich, as well as compatriots Oleg Deripaska, Igor Sechin, Andrey Kostin, Alexei Miller, Nikolai Tokarev, and Dmitri Lebedev.

Mr Johnson said: “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s invasion.

“Today’s sanctions are the latest step in our ruthless pursuit of those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of Ukraine.”

Speaking during an interview with Sky later in the day, the PM said: “We’ve got to be very careful in the way we approach these things. The rights to property are something that UK law takes very seriously, and you’ve got to go through due process.

“You’ve got to have clear evidence that people are connected to the Putin regime. That has been established. That’s why we’re going ahead with the sanctions.

“I can’t comment on what individuals are doing, but we’ve concluded that there is enough of a connection between the Putin regime and the individuals in question to justify the action.

“When you look at what is happening in Ukraine, and you look at the casual rejection of every civilised norm behaviour, in bombing a maternity hospital, I think people in this country can see that people connected to the Putin regime need to be sanctioned, and that’s what we’re doing”.

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.”

What have Chelsea said about the sanctions?

The European champions released a statement addressing the new measures on Thursday.

It read: “Chelsea Football Club has been advised that its owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government.

“By virtue of his 100 per cent ownership of Chelsea FC plc and affiliated entities, Chelsea FC would normally be subject to the same sanctions regime as Mr Abramovich. However, the UK Government has issued a general licence that permits Chelsea FC to continue certain activities.

“We will fulfil our men’s and women’s team fixtures today against Norwich and West Ham, respectively, and intend to engage in discussions with the UK Government regarding the scope of the licence. This will include seeking permission for the licence to be amended in order to allow the Club to operate as normal as possible. We will also be seeking guidance from the UK Government on the impact of these measures on the Chelsea Foundation and its important work in our communities.”

What do the sanctions stop Chelsea from doing?

Today’s announcement has the potential to be hugely disruptive for the European champions.

In the short term, Abramovich’s planned sale of the club has been placed into serious doubt, and any deal would be subject to governmental approval on the condition that the Russian made no profit from it.

Despite these fresh sanctions, however, The Times report that there are potential buyers still keen on striking a deal for the Blues.

Meanwhile Chelsea will no longer be allowed to sell home or away tickets to any of their matches.

Tickets that have already been purchased, including season tickets and tickets for tonight’s match against Norwich City, are still valid, however.

With regards to their transfer activity, Chelsea have been placed under an effective embargo, meaning that they no longer have permission to sign any new players, while the sale of club merchandise is also banned.

What can Chelsea still do under the new sanctions?

Under the terms of the sanctions, Chelsea are permitted to operate under a special licence.

With regards to what the club are still allowed to do, and how they proceed from this point onwards, the details are as follows:

  • Chelsea will still be able to pay the wages of all employees, including players and coaching staff.
  • The club can pay “reasonable” costs of travel to and from fixtures, but not can no longer exceed £20,000 per game per team.
  • Chelsea can pay “reasonable” costs towards hosting home fixtures, but may not exceed £500,000 per fixture per team.
  • Fans who bought season tickets or individual match tickets before March 10th 2022 can still attend the relevant games.
  • Broadcasters are still allowed to broadcast any fixture involving the club.

What could the sanctions means for Chelsea’s future?

In the short term, the sanctions cast serious doubt over Abramovich’s sale of the club.

They also hugely limit the Blues’ financial capabilities, and effectively put a stop to any fresh revenue coming into the club.

Today’s sanctions are expected to be reviewed in May, and in the worst case scenario of the club going into administration as a result of the measures, Chelsea could be subject to a nine-point deduction from the Premier League.

As a further aside, shirt sponsors Three have said they are “reviewing the situation and are in discussions with Chelsea FC.”

Support people fleeing the devastating conflict in Ukraine: donate to the DEC appeal

Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) charities and their local partners are in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries providing food, water, shelter and medical assistance. Learn more and donate what you can today

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.