Roman Abramovich to hand over 'stewardship and care' of Chelsea amid Russia sanctions pressure

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich says he is handing over "the stewardship and care” of the club to its trustees.

Russian billionaire Abramovich has been the subject of much discussion in the UK Parliament and beyond, with a number of Russian oligarchs and companies facing UK sanctions amid the invasion of Ukraine.

It is understood Abramovich took the decision in order to protect Chelsea from continual links to Russia's widely condemned assault.

He will remain as Chelsea's owner, but will not be involved in any decision-making at the Stamford Bridge club. Chelsea’s senior leadership set-up will not change, it is understood.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (2nd left) poses with club captain Cesar Azpilicueta after the UEFA Champions League final held in Portugal.

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, made no mention of the war in his statement published on Saturday. Abramovich wrote: "During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the Club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.

"I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.

"I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans."

On Sunday, the club published a brief statement on their website, saying "The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating.

Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace."

Abramovich’s step backwards will not have a bearing on any possible UK government sanctions, but was a decision taken solely in the club’s interests.

Listen to ITV News' What You Need To Know podcast for the latest expert analysis on Ukraine

Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed in the House of Commons on Thursday that the UK government should seize Abramovich’s assets and remove the 55-year-old from Chelsea’s ownership.

Abramovich did not apply for a renewal of his UK work visa in 2018, leading to a period of time where he was rarely seen in London.

In October 2021, Abramovich visited Stamford Bridge for a Say No To Anti-Semitism event, in support of Chelsea’s long-running campaign against racism and hatred.

Abramovich then attended Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea in action in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in November, and was on hand in Abu Dhabi when the Blues won the Club World Cup final on February 12.

Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and has help turn the Blues into one of Europe’s most successful club sides.

Chelsea have won 19 major titles since Abramovich took control of the west Londoners.