Chelsea fans urged to stop chanting in support of owner Roman Abramovich
The Russian was sanctioned by the UK Government on Thursday.
Chelsea fans have been asked to refrain from chanting in support of their owner Roman Abramovich by a Government minister.
Supporters of the west London club sang Abramovich’s name during the Premier League win at Norwich on Thursday night, hours after the Government had imposed sanctions on him due to his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich’s UK assets have been frozen while Chelsea have been issued a special licence to continue operating under strict conditions designed to prevent the Russian-Israeli billionaire generating new revenue.
Technology minister Chris Philp urged Blues fans to remember why Abramovich had been sanctioned in the first place.
“I’m a football fan myself, I’m a Palace fan, in south London. So I understand why fans are very attached to their football clubs,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme on Friday morning.
“But Roman Abramovich is someone who has been sanctioned now, yesterday morning, for his very close links to Vladimir Putin and the Putin regime.
“And I just say respectfully to the Chelsea fans, I know he’s done a lot for the club, but the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and what the Russian regime are doing to civilians – shelling maternity hospitals and shooting civilians who are fleeing down humanitarian corridors – and that is more important than football.
“And I say that as a football fan myself, and I would just ask them to keep that in mind.”
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and has led the club to 21 trophies in the 19 years since.
But the club’s future is now uncertain. The existing licence for the club does not permit a sale, but the Government has said it is open to a sale and would consider an application for a new licence to make the transaction possible.
The key condition of any sale would be that Abramovich does not benefit in any way. He had put the club up for sale on March 2.
The club cannot sell new tickets for home and away matches, sell merchandise or buy or sell new players. The licence can be varied or revoked at any time, and the club said on Thursday it would seek to amend the licence to allow them to operate as close to normal as possible.
Club accounts published last December highlighted the degree to which Chelsea have been reliant on owner funding, with Abramovich’s company Fordstam having poured in £1.5billion since he bought the club. The Blues lost £155.9million in the year ending June 30, 2021, with a wage bill of £333m.
On the pitch, however, the men’s team secured a 3-1 win at Norwich, while the women’s side beat West Ham 4-1 on Thursday night.
“The situation will not go away, maybe tomorrow it will change again, but it will not go away,” men’s head coach Thomas Tuchel said.
“I am still happy to be here and still happy to be manager of a strong team. I know there is a lot of noise around.”
Chelsea Women head coach Emma Hayes told Sky Sports News: “There’s no denying it’s a difficult day, but I think it’s important that we give it time.
“The club’s put a statement out. I understand the club is working with the Government to dissect the interpretation of that, so I think for all the questions everybody has, players, fans, staff, we have to give the club time to work through that.”
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