LONDON – For Chelsea players and coaches, the first snippets of information arrived in text messages and news alerts that made their cell phones ring as they headed to a private terminal at London’s Gatwick Airport on Thursday morning.
The British government has frozen the assets of their team’s Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, as part of a broader set of sanctions announce Against a group of Russian oligarchs. This measure, part of the government’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was designed to punish a handful of individuals whose businesses, fortunes, and relationships are closely tied to the Kremlin. The British government said Abramovich has enjoyed a “close relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin for decades.
The order was applied to all of Abramovich’s business, property and possessions, but his most significant – and most famous – impact was on Chelsea, the European football champion, who was at that very moment beginning his journey to the Premier League match on Thursday night in Norwich City.
News reports and government statements slowly filled in some of the gaps: Abramovich Planning to sell the team are now inadmissible and suspended; club was Muharram from selling tickets or merchandise, lest the money return to its owner; The team is banned – at the moment – from Acquisition or sale of players In the multi-billion dollar football trading market.
And hour after hour, another thing became clear: Chelsea, one of Europe’s leading teams and contender for the Champions League title this season, was suddenly facing a troubling future marked by austerity, uncertainty and decadence.
Even as it announced its actions against Abramovich and six other Russian oligarchs, the government said it had taken steps to ensure Chelsea could continue its operations and complete its season. The government said that to protect the club’s interests, Chelsea had issued a license allowing it to continue its football-related activities.
The license, which the government said will be under “continuous review”, will ensure that players and staff continue to be paid; that fans who hold season tickets can continue to attend matches; And that the integration of the Premier League, which is an important cultural wealth and one of Britain’s most important exports, will not be affected.
But the penalties will tighten his grip on Chelsea’s spending and seriously undermine his ability to operate at the levels it has been in over the past two decades.
By Thursday, efforts to ensure that money did not flow into Abramovich was going in big and small. The three telecommunications company has suspended its sponsorship of the shirt – a lucrative revenue stream – and has demanded that its logo be removed from Chelsea’s uniform and stadium.
At a club-owned hotel near the team’s Stamford Bridge stadium, the front desk had stopped reserving rooms and the restaurant had closed down food and drink service. Around the corner, in the official Chelsea team store, business continued as usual until security officials closed the store abruptly. Shoppers, who were filling baskets with club merchandise, were asked to put everything back in its place and leave.
Moments later, banners were pasted over the locked entrances. They read: “Due to the latest government announcement, this store will be closed today until further notice.”
An uncertain future lies ahead, as sanctions affect everything from the money Chelsea spends on travel to how they spend the tens of millions of dollars they receive from TV broadcasters.
Chelsea Acknowledge his new reality in a statement, but indicated that it intended to immediately enter into discussions with the government about the scope of the license granted to the team. This will include, the team said, seeking permission to amend the license to allow the club to operate as normally as possible.
At the club Thursday morning, staff were struggling to adjust to what the government’s measures would mean for them, their jobs and the team. Several club officials, including Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel, the German, and Abramovich’s chief lieutenant, club director Marina Granovskaya, are still trying to understand what they can and cannot do.
One big deal is off the table: A freeze on Abramovich’s assets makes it impossible – at least in the short term – for him to get on with his business. Announced plans to sell Chelsea. Under the new arrangement, the process will be overseen by the British government. And while she said she wouldn’t necessarily prevent the sale, the effect would be to drastically reduce any proposed selling price, and the proceeds “cannot go to the sanctioned individual while they are sanctioned” – leaving little incentive for Abramovich to move forward.
Whatever happens next, nothing will be the same at Chelsea. Since the arrival of Abramovich as a little-known Russian businessman in 2003, he has spent more money on buying talent than almost any other club owner in football history, with the constant flow of players and coaches in and out of the club his hallmark. years in charge. In the minutes after the sanctions were announced, it soon became apparent that Chelsea would cease to be a player in the multibillion dollar player-trading market, unable to acquire new talent, sell any of their existing players, and without the usual Abramovich system. He pumped his personal fortune into continuing to pay the huge salaries of the players he currently employs.
For Chelsea fans too, there has been confusion over how and when they can attend matches. While season tickets remain valid, any new sales, including away matches and, most importantly, any future Champions League matches are prohibited if the team advances to later rounds of the competition. Chelsea’s next match in the Champions League is scheduled for Wednesday against Lille, the French champion. A berth in the quarter-finals is at stake.
This trip and any future travel outside of London will now be carefully scrutinized after the government announced a limit of £20,000 (about $26,000) per game in travel expenses. These penalties may be among the points of discussion as Chelsea players and staff traveled to the private terminal at Gatwick Airport, south London, on a chartered plane for the short trip to Norwich.
By then, Tuchel’s phone was ringing. Tuchel, the coach who last week Angrily answered a series of questions About Abramovich and Ukraine at a press conference, they probably did not know a little more than those who were asking him questions.
On Thursday, he would try to focus on the trip to Norwich City, where his team won 3-1, and on the trip that would follow on Sunday, Chelsea’s first home game since their world was turned upside down.
In that match, perhaps for the last time in months, Chelsea will play a full house. A sign installed at the entrance to Stamford Bridge on Thursday read: ‘Out of home game against Newcastle United.’
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