BENJAMIN BARRETT WRITES – One of the most popular football clubs in the world, Chelsea FC, is currently facing sanctions due to its Russian roots. Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea, is suspected of having close ties with Vladimir Putin. According to an Al Jazeera article, Abramovich has been labeled a “pro-Kremlin oligarch” who helped in “destabilizing…undermining and threatening” Ukraine. Furthermore, Abramovich is linked to a steel firm that supposedly supplied material for Russian tanks.
Publicly, however, Abramovich is showing himself to be anti-war. He has said that he wants to help broker peace between the two countries. Recently, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said that Abramovich has been helping but didn’t specify what he was doing or to what extent he was helping. “As far as I am aware, he was helping with the humanitarian issue: with the humanitarian convoy taking people out of Mariupol,” said Zelenskyy.
After having his assets frozen, Abramovich inquired about selling Chelsea FC. If able to, he said that he would donate all the money to a fund which would “benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.” This phrasing, though, is ambiguous: Does it leave open the possibility of providing funding to Russia?
Recently, reports surfaced that Abramovich was a target of poisoning at peace talks on the Ukraine and Belarus borders earlier this month. According to a Wall Street Journal article, he was said to have sore eyes, constant and painful tearing and peeling skin on his face and hands. He has since made a full recovery.
This alleged poisoning only adds to people’s confusion as to where Abramovich stands. His actions haven’t exactly made it clear if he is condemning Russia or brokering peace to a war that he possibly could have supplied weapons for. But if he was poisoned, that might speak to his “friendship” with Putin. Clearly, he can’t have it both ways.
Chelsea FC as a soccer club is also facing sanctions given that it is an asset of Abramovich’s. Essentially, any profit that would benefit Abramovich can no longer happen because then his assets wouldn’t fully be frozen. This means ticket sales, the club shop, the Stamford Bridge Hotel and more are all shut down for the moment. Season ticket holders and fans with tickets already purchased are still allowed to attend the games. Furthermore, Chelsea cannot re-sign players to new or revised deals nor can members participate in transactions when the transfer market opens again, posing real problems for the team’s future.
For now, the world will have to wait a little longer before they know what will happen to Abramovich and Chelsea FC. His assets remain frozen and many people continue to push him to relinquish his ownership of the $2.1 billion club. After his supposed poisoning and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, Abramovich will likely be a name you will continue to hear until the conflict is resolved.