Sale of Chelsea FC on hold and ticket sales blocked as Roman Abramovich sanctioned

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports on the significance of Roman Abramovich being sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Chelsea FC owner and Vladimir Putin ally Roman Abramovich is among a list of Russian oligarchs being sanctioned by the UK, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The club will still be allowed to operate under a special licence but it will be severely impacted by the asset freeze aspect of the sanctions.

No more ticket sales will be allowed, player transfers and new contracts will be banned, merchandise sales will also not be allowed but catering services will be permitted.

The billionaire's planned sale of Chelsea FC - which he bought in 2003 - will also not be allowed to go ahead for the time being - and if it does he will not be allowed to benefit from selling the club.

How will the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich affect Chelsea's future? Steve Scott explains

Club sponsor Three has also announced it is suspending its arrangement with the club and wants all its branding removed from the stadium and team kits.

The telecoms firm said: “We recognise that this decision will impact the many Chelsea fans who follow their team passionately. However, we feel that given the circumstances, and the Government sanction that is in place, it is the right thing to do."

Chelsea faces Norwich on Thursday evening in a Premier League game, but it is unclear what branding will be on the shirts.

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Boris Johnson's spokesman said: "It's fair to say the government is open to the sale of the club but currently it would require another licence, and that would require further conversation with the Treasury and other departments."

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said he and other sanctioned oligarchs are "complicit in [Putin's] aggression" and the "blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands".

"Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society," Ms Truss said, adding: "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."

Roman Abramovich moved to sell Chelsea after 19 years at the Stamford Bridge helm. Credit: PA

The oligarchs will be subject to a travel ban, barred from entering or leaving Britain, and will have their UK assets frozen.

They are also subject to a transport ban which means Abramovich's private jet will also be banned from entering or leaving the UK, whether or not he's on board.

The government had been under considerable pressure to sanction him for some time, given his close links to the Kremlin.

Roman Abramovich talk during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, in this May 27, 2005 Credit: PA

Can Chelsea FC still operate?

The culture secretary acknowledged this would have an impact on the Premier League side but a special licence would enable it to continue operating.

The Premier League confirmed Chelsea's match against Norwich on Thursday will still go ahead as planned, and said in a statement it would "work with the club and the government to ensure the season will proceed as planned and in line with the government’s intention".

Explaining the impact of sanctions on Chelsea, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Twitter: "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.

"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 & 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."

The club must follow a strict set of guidelines on expenses including a limit on travelling to away matches of £20,000 and also security and catering at future matches can not exceed £500,000.

Chelsea matches can still be shown live and the club is allowed to receive its share of its current Premier League broadcast deal to assist its cash flow.

Club officials are due to meet government officials later on Thursday to clarify various implications of today’s momentous decision in the history of the club.

Chelsea FC, in a statement, said it would be pressing the government to amend the club's licence to allow it to "operate as normal as possible".

A raft of other oligarchs were added to the UK's sanctioned list.

They are:

  • Oleg Deripaska - owns stakes in En+ Group

  • Igor Sechin - chief executive of energy company Rosneft

  • Andrey Kostin - chairman of VTB bank

  • Alexei Miller - CEO of energy company Gazprom

  • Nikolai Tokarev - president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft

  • Dmitri Lebedev - hairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya

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."

Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003 and delivered unprecedented levels of success for the west London side - including two Champions League titles and five Premier League titles.

But the 55-year-old announced his glittering reign in west London is close to an end as he released this statement: "In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners."