Chelsea FC was today banned from selling match tickets or signing new players and must close its stadium shop after Roman Abramovich was added to the UK’s sanctions list.
The £9.4billion Russian oligarch, who has close ties to Vladimir Putin, has been prohibited from transactions with UK individuals and businesses – meaning his plan to sell the West London club looks impossible.
Chelsea’s status as a ‘significant cultural asset’ means it has been granted a special licence to continue playing, but Abramovich will be deprived of any profits.
The club has been banned from selling home and away tickets, with only fans who have already bought tickets – including 28,000 season ticket holders – still allowed to attend games.
There is also the prospect that Champions League games will be played effectively behind closed doors, as those tickets are often purchased separately from season tickets.
The licence prohibits Chelsea from spending more than £20,000 on any away game travel, raising serious logistical questions for its Champions League game in Lille next Wednesday. The play Norwich away tonight and Newcastle at home on Sunday.
A source told Mailonline: ‘Stamford Bridge is not going to be empty … we don’t expect them to play behind closed doors. It does mean there may be some empty seats but not an empty ground.’
Chelsea will not be able to agree any new contracts, preventing it from engaging in the summer transfer market, but existing staff, stadium stewards and players will still be paid. It can also continue to receive TV broadcast payments and provide food and drink at matches.
The club cannot sell any merchandise itself, but retailers who already hold stock can continue to do so, as long as none of the money ends up in Chelsea’s hands. The licence to continue operating will last until May 31, but can be ‘varied, revoked or suspended’ at any time.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the aim was to ensure that Abramovich cannot ‘benefit from his ownership of the club’. The Putin-linked tycoon’s name was chanted by Chelsea fans during a minute’s applause for Ukraine at Burney on Saturday, leading to widespread condemnation.
Roman Abramovich will not be allowed to sell Chelsea, while unprecedented extra measures have been taken to ensure he cannot profit from its activities
A new licence allows the club to continue playing all its fixtures due to its status as a ‘significant cultural asset’, but only season ticket holders will be allowed to attend games at Stamford Bridge (pictured)
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The shape of Chelsea’s long-term future has naturally been thrown into doubt, but Government ministers were quick to insist any damage would be limited.
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 Chelsea and 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 and 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.’
Abramovich has changed the face of British football in his time as Chelsea owner, leading the Blues to 21 trophies in 19 years in a clean sweep of all global competitions.
But that era has been brought to a halt amid Vladimir Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
British billionaire Nick Candy was the latest high-profile business magnate to throw their hat into the ring for Chelsea’s sale, amid a host of suitors for the Champions League holders.
Swiss tycoon Hansjorg Wyss and American investor Todd Boehly were also in the running, with more than 10 credible parties understood to have been compiling bids.
The Chelsea squad will continue to prepare for Thursday’s Premier League clash at Norwich as normal, but everyone at the club will now set about examining the details of the current situation.
Mr Abramovich’s one time business partner, Oleg Deripaska, has been hit with the same sanctions – as have Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and four more described as being in Putin’s ‘inner circle’.
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.’
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.’
The Foreign Office said the oligarchs have a collective net worth of around £15billion.
Mr Abramovich’s one time business partner, Oleg Deripaska (pictured), has also been hit with the same measures
Nikolai Tokarev (left) and Igor Sechin have also been targeted by the UK government
VTB Bank president Andrei Kostin is now under the UK sanctions regime
The aftermath of the Russia bombardment on the children and maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, yesterday
The surprise move came as Defence minister James Heappey insisted the bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine was a war crime and called for Putin and Russian generals to be held to account.
Seven more oligarchs sanctioned by UK
Roman Abramovich is one of seven Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the UK Government today.
The Government estimates his wealth at more than £9billion and notes his stakes in steel giant Evraz, Norilsk Nickel and ownership of Chelsea FC.
‘He is one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Putin,’ a Government spokesman said.
The other oligarchs sanctioned today are:
- Oleg Deripaska: Estimated wealth of £2billion and a multi-million-pound Uk property portfolio. Subject to US sanctions since 2018. Has stakes in En+ Group, a major extractives and energy company which owns UC Rusal, one of the world’s major aluminium producers.
- Igor Sechin: Chief Executive of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company. The Government said he is ‘particularly close and influential ally of Putin’. Already sanctioned by the US and EU.
- Andrey Kostin: Chairman of VTB bank, the second largest bank in Russia. A ‘close associate of Putin’ who has ‘long supported Kremlin objectives through VTB Bank’. Net worth of £379 million. Already sanctioned by the US and EU.
- Alexei Miller: Chief executive of of energy company Gazprom. Served under Putin when autocrat was mayor of St Petersburg. Already sanctioned by the US.
- Nikolai Tokarev: President of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft. Former KGB agent who served alongside Putin in East Germany. Already sanctioned by the US and EU.
- Dmitri Lebedev: Chairman of Bank Rossiya, which is ‘widely considered to be the Kremlin’s private bank’. Sanctioned by the US in 2016.
Mr Heappey stressed that the West is gathering evidence that can be used in a future prosecution, but said in a round of interviews: ‘What you see on your TV screens is a war crime.’
The comments came as it was confirmed three people, including a child, died when warplanes bombed the hospital in beseiged Mariupol as pregnant women gave birth in the basement.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the attack as an ‘atrocity’ and ‘the ultimate proof of genocide against Ukrainians’.
The hospital, in the besieged city of Mariupol, was hit ‘several times’ by high-explosive Russian bombs – one of which missed the building by yards and left a crater two-stories deep, officials said. Other bombs scored ‘direct hits’, President Zelensky said, wounding at least 17 people.
Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister, said there can be ‘no doubt’ the hospital was deliberately ‘targeted’ by Russia in a chilling echo tactics used during the bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo while Putin’s men were fighting alongside dictator Basahr al-Assad’s troops. Moscow denies targeting civilian facilities.
Mr Abramovich is worth 10.4bn ($12.5bn), according to Forbes, and owns a £150million Kensington mansion, a £22million West London penthouse, and more than £1.2bn of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars based in Britain and around the world.
His two superyachts may already be out of reach. £430million Solaris was moored in Barcelona a week ago but is now off the Sicily coast, believed to be heading to Israel, where he holds citizenship.
The £540million Eclipse is currently in open sea off the coast of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.
In London, his staff are said to have been ready for viewings at his 15-bedroom mansion at Kensington Palace Gardens, valued at more than £150m, and a three-storey penthouse at Chelsea Waterfront, worth an estimated £22m.
Chelsea FC is his most valuable British asset, after the oligarch transformed its fortunes from outside challengers to Premier League giants with the help of Jose Mourinho and huge signings like Didier Drogba, so its sale will be a personal blow to the billionaire industrialist.
Labour’s Chris Bryant, using parliamentary privilege to avoid legal action, alleged the tycoon is selling his home and an apartment because he is ‘terrified of being sanctioned’, adding that he feared the government will soon run out of time to act.
Abramovich is worth 10.4bn ($12.5bn), according to Forbes, and owns a £150m Kensington mansion, a £22m penthouse, and more than £1.2bn of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars based in Britain and around the world
The Foreign Office announced the new sanctions with top-trumps style images on social media