Chanting Chelsea fans urged to remember reasons for Roman Abramovich sanctions

The London club’s Russian owner was sanctioned by the British Government on Thursday.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Chelsea fans not to sing in support of Roman Abramovich (Joe Giddens/PA)

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

The Prime Minister’s spokesman has urged Chelsea fans to remember why Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the Government after supporters sang the Russian’s name during Thursday night’s match at Norwich.

Abramovich’s name was sung repeatedly by Blues fans at Carrow Road, hours after the Government imposed sanctions on him over his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russia, on Putin’s orders, launched an invasion of Ukraine just over two weeks ago which has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Europe. The Government has responded by freezing the assets of oligarchs such as Abramovich, which has led to Chelsea being subject to a licence placing strict conditions on their commercial activities.

The Government sanctioned Roman Abramovich over his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin (Nick Potts/PA)

The Prime Minister’s spokesman was asked about the chants on Friday and said: “We understand the strength of feelings that Chelsea fans will have and the passion for their club but it’s important to remember that these sanctions are being imposed on those who have provided support to the Putin regime and the brutal assault on Ukraine.”

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust had called on fans to be “respectful” in a tweet sent before Thursday night’s match.

“The players need our support more than ever. Tonight, let’s get behind the team, rather than focusing on today’s news,” the tweet read.

“Now is the time for Chelsea supporters to focus on actions we can take to protect the future of our club.

“Supporters should be respectful of any pre-match show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are suffering appallingly at the hands of Putin.”

On Friday the CST urged the Government to amend the terms of the licence to avoid innocent people losing their jobs.

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The licence forbids the sale of any new tickets for home or away matches, and a ban on the sale of merchandise.

The club issued a statement on Thursday urging the Government to amend the licence terms, and Dan Silver from the CST warned people’s livelihoods were at risk even in the short term if it was not altered.

“We would like the club to have the ability to trade as close to maximum capacity as possible,” he told the PA news agency.

“It’s the casual staff who work on matchdays who aren’t going to get paid. If only half the people are in the stadium, they’re only going to need half as many staff.

“All these people rely on that (money) to put food on the plate. It’s harsh on them, and the punishment falling all the way downhill is harsh.

“We don’t want to have any jobs lost as a result of this, because the bigger picture is to keep everybody in the club protected and looked after.”

If the Government wants to keep a tight, watchful eye on where the money goes, there’s nothing to hide and the club should have no issue with doing that.

Dan Silver, CST

Silver said a compromise solution would be for Chelsea to be allowed to sell tickets and merchandise but for the money to be independently managed, with the club needing to prove they were only drawing down what they needed to pay operating costs.

“If the Government wants to keep a tight, watchful eye on where the money goes, there’s nothing to hide and the club should have no issue with doing that,” he added.

The licence does not permit the club to be sold but the Government said on Thursday it is “open” to a sale if an application is made for a new licence.

British billionaire Nick Candy is among those still interested in buying the Champions League holders despite Thursday’s sanctions, but the question remains what the realistic value of the club is now.

Abramovich had stated his intention to sell on March 2 but there is nothing to stop him changing his mind.

Chelsea owner Abramovich is looking to sell the club (Rebecca Naden/PA)

However, Silver is confident Abramovich will stick to his word and walk away from the investment, having previously said any proceeds of sale would go to support all victims of the war in Ukraine.

“If he wants to stay (invested in Chelsea) and fight the UK Government, which I think he will find very, very difficult, this could potentially drag on for months and months and destroy the club, which I don’t think he would want,” he said.

“I would imagine he would probably walk away.”

The CST joined a meeting with Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston on Thursday, alongside the Chelsea Women’s Supporters Group, Chelsea Pride and the Football Supporters’ Association.

The Trust reiterated its call for supporters to be given a ‘golden share’ as part of any new sale, giving it a say over key issues related to the club such as the crest, club colours and a change of stadium.

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