LONDON (AP) — A ban on transfers and selling new tickets were among unprecedented restrictions placed on Chelsea by the British government on Thursday after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned over Russia's war on Ukraine.
The reigning European and world champions have to operate under a special government “Russia Regulations” license that stymies Abramovich's rapid plan to sell the club. However, Chelsea is allowed to keep playing.
The west London club was put up for sale only last week as calls for him to be sanctioned grew over his close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime.
The government called Abramovich a “pro-Kremlin oligarch” who is worth more than 9 billion pounds ($12 billion), and should be punished due to his association with Putin. Abramovich was also linked with “destabilizing,” undermining and threatening Ukraine.
Abramovich has not condemned Russia's invasion of its neighbor in two statements since the war began two weeks ago. The British government said Abramovich has obtained financial benefits from Putin's administration, including contracts in the buildup to Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.
The ripples are being felt at Chelsea, the club Abramovich has pumped more than $2 billion into over 19 years, transforming the team into a force in European football.
Anyone with tickets until the end of the season in May can keep on going to matches but no new tickets can be purchased, which impacts the ability of any away fans to go to Stamford Bridge. The club also has to stop selling merchandise at its shop.
Staff, including players, can continue to be paid. The club's wage bill was almost 28 million pounds ($37 million) a month in the most recent accounts.
The club has been effectively placed under a transfer ban since it cannot spend on registering new players, while there are doubts over the ability to offer new contracts.
Only 500,000 pounds ($657,000) can be spent on staging each match at Stamford Bridge, including on security and catering. A maximum of 20,000 pounds can be spent on travel to matches. Chelsea plays in France at Lille in the Champions League next week.
Abramovich was among seven wealthy Russians who had their assets frozen under British sanctions on Thursday as Boris Johnson’s administration deployed financial measures to put pressure on Putin while Britain is not getting militarily involved in the war.
These sanctions are about “depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club,” Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted. “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.”