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Britain’s Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has frozen assets

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Britain's Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has frozen assets


LONDON – For Chelsea players and coaches, the first pieces of information came in text messages and news alerts requested by their mobile phones as they made their way to a private terminal at London’s Gatwick Airport on Thursday morning.

The British government froze the assets of the Russian owner of his team Roman Abramovich as part of a broader set of sanctions announced against a group of Russian oligarchs. The action, which is part of the government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was intended to punish several individuals whose business, wealth and ties are closely linked to the Kremlin. According to the British government, Abramovich has maintained a “close relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin for decades.

The order applied to all of Abramovich’s businesses, assets and holdings, but its most significant – and loudest – effect affected Chelsea, the reigning European football champions, who at the same time began their journey to the Premier League match on Thursday night in Norwich. City.

News and government statements were slowly filling some gaps: Abramovich plans to sell the team were now unprofitable and delayed; the club was prohibited from the sale of tickets or goods, so that any money is not returned to their owners; and the team was banned – for now – from buying or selling players in the multibillion-dollar football trading market.

And hour after nervous hour, one more thing became clear: Chelsea, one of Europe’s leading teams and a contender for another Champions League title this season, suddenly faced a troubled future marked by austerity, uncertainty and decline.

Even as he announced his actions against Abramovich and six other Russian oligarchs, the government said it had taken steps to ensure that Chelsea could continue to operate and end the season. To protect the club’s interests, the government said it had issued a license to Chelsea to allow him to continue his football career.

The license, which the government says will be on “constant review”, ensures that players and team staff will continue to pay; so that fans who have season tickets can continue to attend the games; and that the integrity of the Premier League, which is considered an important cultural asset and one of Britain’s most high-profile exports, will not be affected.

But sanctions will stop Chelsea’s spending and seriously undermine its ability to operate at the level it has had for the past two decades.

Until Thursday, efforts to ensure that the money did not go to Abramovich, played out both big and small. Telecommunications company Three has suspended sponsorship of the T-shirt – a lucrative revenue stream – and asked to have its logo removed from the Chelsea uniform and stadium.

At a club-owned hotel near Stamford Bridge Stadium, the front desk has stopped booking rooms and the restaurant has stopped serving food and drinks. Around the corner, in the official Chelsea team store, business continued as usual until security officers abruptly closed the store. Buyers who filled the baskets with club goods were told to fold everything back and leave.

A few minutes later, signs were glued to the closed entrances. “Due to the latest announcement by the government, this store will be closed today until further notice,” the statement said.

An uncertain future awaits, with sanctions affecting everything from the money Chelsea spends on travel to the way it spends tens of millions of dollars it receives from television broadcasters.

Chelsea recognized his new reality in a statement, but suggested he intends to immediately begin discussions with the government on the scope of the license the team has received. “This will include,” the team said, “requesting permission to make changes to the license so the club can operate as normally as possible.”

On Thursday morning, the club’s staff struggled to understand what the government’s actions would mean for them, their work and the team. Many members of the club, including Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel and Lieutenant Chief Abramovich, club director Marina Granovskaya, were still trying to figure out what was possible and what was not.

One serious deal has been stopped: the freezing of Abramovich’s assets makes it impossible – at least in the short term – for him to fulfill his announced plans to sell Chelsea. Under the new arrangement, the British government will oversee the process. And while it said it doesn’t necessarily block sales, the result will be a significant reduction in any proposed sale price, and revenue “cannot go to a person subject to sanctions as long as he is subject to sanctions,” leaving Abramovich little incentive to move forward. .

Whatever happens next, nothing will be the same at Chelsea. Since Abramovich arrived as a little-known Russian businessman in 2003, he has spent more money on talent talent than almost any other club owner in football history, with a constant flow of Chelsea players and coaches to the club and with its hallmark. years meets. However, a few minutes after the sanctions were announced, it soon became clear that Chelsea would cease to be a multibillion-dollar player, unable to acquire new talent, sell any of its current players without Abramovich’s full-time players. infusing your personal fortune to continue to pay huge salaries to players who are currently working.

Chelsea fans have also been confused about how and when they can attend the games. While season tickets will remain in effect, any new sales are prohibited, including on away matches and, importantly, any future Champions League games if the team advances to the next rounds of the competition. Chelsea’s next Champions League game against French champions Lille is scheduled for Wednesday; on horseback reaching the quarterfinals.

This trip and any future travel outside of London will now be carefully studied after the government announced a limit on team spending of £ 20,000 (about $ 26,000) per game. These fines could be one of the points of discussion as players and Chelsea staff traveled to a private terminal at Gatwick Airport south of London to board a charter plane for a short flight to Norwich.

By then, Tuchel’s phone was ringing. Tuhel, the coach who last week angrily answered a stream of questions about Abramovich and Ukraine at the press conference, probably knew a little more than those who bombarded him with questions.

On Thursday, he would try to focus on a trip to Norwich City, where his team won 3-1, and on Sunday, Chelsea’s first home game since the world turned upside down.

In this game, perhaps for the last time in recent months, Chelsea will play before sold out. A sign attached to the entrance to Stamford Bridge on Thursday said that the home game against Newcastle United was sold out.

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