The European Union has imposed sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in new measures targeting Russia.
The EU included the Russian oligarch in its updated list of individuals facing assets freeze and travel bans due to his close links to Vladimir Putin.
As it stands, Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 second leg at Lille is going ahead as scheduled on Wednesday, with talks continuing between UEFA and the EU.
A UEFA statement read: “UEFA is fully committed to always implementing relevant EU and international sanctions. Our understanding is that the present case is assessed in the context of the licence issued in the UK which allows Chelsea FC to continue minimum football activity whilst providing a safeguard that no financial gain will result for Mr Abramovich.
“We will work with the EU and relevant member states to ensure we have full clarity and remain in lockstep with all relevant and applicable measures in line with latest developments.”
The news comes as Chelsea have also withdrawn their request to play Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough behind closed doors after widespread criticism.
Chelsea originally released a statement arguing their game should be behind closed doors because they only sold 650 tickets out of their initial away allocation of 4,620 for the game at the Riverside, meaning they were at a sporting disadvantage and that a behind-closed-doors game would be “the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances”.
Middlesbrough called the request “bizarre” and “without any merit whatsoever” and the UK government said they saw “no reason” why the match should be played without fans.
But hours later Chelsea withdrew the request. An FA statement said: “After constructive talks between the FA and Chelsea, the club has agreed to remove their request for the Emirates FA Cup Quarter-Final tie against Middlesbrough to be played behind closed doors.
“The FA remains in ongoing discussions with Chelsea, the Premier League and the Government to find a solution that would enable both Chelsea fans to attend games and away fans to attend Stamford Bridge, whilst ensuring sanctions are respected.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone gave evidence to the Department of Media, Culture and Sport select committee and said the government may amend its licence to allow Chelsea to sell tickets, so long as Abramovich does not profit from the move.
He said: “The measures we have taken and the licence we have given to Chelsea is to precisely stop [Chelsea going out of business]. It is to allow Chelsea still to play, for staff to still be paid, to honour ticket sales already, and we are discussions with Chelsea and the fans to see if we can allow further ticket sales, because we want the sanctions to hit those we intend to hit and not others.
“But we want to ensure the sanctions hit those we intend to hit and there is minimal impact elsewhere. But there will be inconvenience as a result. We would welcome the sale (of the club) and we would change the licence to enable that sale, and that would be important for Chelsea.”
The Premier League also revealed on Tuesday their intention to introduce a new independent panel to scrutinise the ownership and sale of clubs – but not before Abramovich is expected to complete the sale of Chelsea.
Why Chelsea tried to have Boro game behind closed doors
Kaveh Solhekol, chief reporter, Sky Sports News:
“A PR own goal? That is a very good way of putting it. It was such a bad move on Chelsea’s part that even their own fans, the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, released a statement asking Chelsea to withdraw this request.
“Everybody in football can see it is ridiculous for Chelsea, the world champions, the European champions, to be saying playing a Championship side on Saturday, when they have 30,000 fans and Chelsea only have 600 is unfair. It’s totally ridiculous for Chelsea to be doing that. And they have been condemned for that all day.
“There are two things I’d say from Chelsea’s point of view. Chelsea need to defend their supporters, their supporters haven’t been sanctioned by the UK government, they want to be able to follow their team and support them on Saturday.
“The second point is the bigger picture: from the beginning Chelsea knew there was no chance this game would be played behind closed doors but Chelsea feel they’ve been backed into a corner and they want to put as much pressure as possible on the government to get them to relax some of these restrictions so for the rest of the season they can sell or give away tickets to their supporters.
Who is in the running to buy Chelsea?
- London-based luxury property developer and Chelsea supporter Nick Candy is putting together a consortium to buy the club. Candy wants to have a fan representative on the board and he is willing to put money into the club as soon as possible to meet short-term financing needs.
- Todd Boehly, Hangjorg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein form a leading consortium which has made offer in the region of £2 billion. LA Dodgers part-owner Boehly tried to buy Chelsea in a £2.2 billion deal three years ago with Jonathan Goldstein. They have now teamed up with US-based Swiss billionaire Wyss. Goldstein is a property investor and Tottenham fan.
- Former British Airways and Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton is in talks about forming a consortium to buy the club. Lifelong Chelsea supporter who played a key role when Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool in 2010.
- New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is not commenting on reports he is considering making a bid. He is a billionaire philantrophist and heir of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company. Johnson was appointed US ambassador to the UK by Donald Trump in June 2017.
- Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris already co-owns a minority stake in Crystal Palace which he would need to sell if he buys Chelsea.
- RedBird Capital Partners US private equity firm who last April paid £533m for an 11 per cent stake in Liverpool owners Fenway Sport Group. Premier League rules would prevent them owning another club.
- Vivek Ranadive is a computer software billionaire and owner of NBA side Sacramento Kings is interested in bidding for Chelsea.
- Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak said he was confident of agreeing a deal to buy Chelsea by the end of last week.
- MMA fighter and Manchester United supporter Conor McGregor has claimed on social media that he is offering £1.5 billion for Chelsea. His management company Paradigm Sports are working with McGregor Sports & Entertainment and Empowerment IP Capital on a bid.
- One of the UK’s richest men Jim Ratcliffe has looked at Chelsea but believes Premier League clubs are overpriced. His Ineos Football Group now own Nice and FC Lausanne. Ruled out bidding earlier this month but as a Chelsea supporter there is an outside chance he may be tempted to reconsider.
“A lot of people will say, Abramovich is sanctioned. He’s not allowed to do any business in the UK. He can’t even pay his telephone bill on the mansion he owns in Kensington. Why is his club being allowed to continue? You could make the case that the government have bent over backwards to be accommodating to Chelsea and their supporters. They could have just shut Chelsea down for the rest of the season. But the government have decided they will try to make sure Chelsea stay in business and continue playing.
“A lot of people will say, maybe Chelsea should just be quiet and be grateful they are allowed to carry on playing and accept the terms the government have set. But Chelsea are worried about the existence of the club. They feel there’s a real chance they won’t be able to continue this season if some of these restrictions are not loosened and relaxed.”
MP: Chelsea should be seized and profits used to rebuild Ukraine
Chelsea should be seized by the Government and proceeds used to help reconstruct Ukraine, MPs have heard.
Abramovich has been sanctioned by the Government and must not profit in the UK under the terms of the restrictions.
Labour former minister Chris Bryant told the House of Commons: “We should not just be freezing, we should be seizing assets. I don’t think the Government has the power to do that, in normal times you wouldn’t want the Government to be able to seize assets, but we need to have that power now.
“Because if you just look at Chelsea Football Club, it’s in a kind of limbo at the moment. It ought to be able to flourish, I have no ill-feeling against Chelsea Football Club. I’m Welsh, I don’t really care about football very much.
“What I do care about is the asset should be seized by the Government so that it can be spent on reconstruction in Ukraine. If the Government doesn’t take that power, it’s not going to be able to do that.”