Russian billionaire and current Chelsea Football Club owner, Roman Abramovich has confirmed that he will sell the Premier League sporting organisation. Amid mounting public pressure, questions were raised over Abramovich’s close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the billionaire earlier handing over ‘stewardship and care’ of the club to the trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation. However, in a media release published on Thursday, the billionaire announced that he would relinquish full ownership of the team, stating that it was with the club’s ‘best interest at heart’.
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“As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart,” Abramovich wrote in the statement. “In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners. As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.”
According to Abramovich, the Chelsea FC sale, which is reportedly worth around $5 billion, “will not be fast-tracked”, meaning there is no current timetable for the shift. When it does happen, however, proceeds are set to go to a charitable foundation benefiting those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian billionaire also confirmed that he is not looking for repayments on the club’s £1.5 billion loan that is still outstanding to him.
“This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club,” he said. “Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated. The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.”
For football fans, the Chelsea FC sale continues an emerging trend of Premier League teams cutting Russian ties. Iconic team Manchester United last week ended its sponsored deal with Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, while Everton FC confirmed that sponsorship deals with Russian businesses Yota and Megafon had been suspended. Even gaming enterprise EA Sports is getting in on the action. The FIFA developer announced on Wednesday that the latest edition of the ultra-popular franchise would not feature any Russian clubs or the National Team. EA Sports also said it would remove Russian teams from NHL 22, the game title based on the National Hockey League.
Remarkably, EA Sports has done with FIFA what the actual governing body could not. Earlier this week, we reported that while FIFA had implemented a series of sanctions over the Russian team, it had not excluded them from World Cup Qualifying. The decision sent shockwaves through the sporting world, prompting boycotts from Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and England. At the time, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino confirmed that further action wasn’t off the table, however, with Abramovich stepping down, pressure is mounting on football’s governing body.