Roman Abramovich has handed “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the club’s charitable foundation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But Abramovich will remain Chelsea owner and the Russian billionaire, who has invested over £1billion into the Stamford Bridge club since purchasing it in 2003, will not be asking the club to repay the loans it owes him – meaning the long-term future of the club remains secure.
It is also understood that Abramovich remains adamant that Chelsea is not for sale.
Bur there are now questions about his long-term future at the club.
Whether Abramovich will ever return to taking a more visible hands-on role at the club will likely depend strongly on whether he faces any sanctions, and what happens in Ukraine and the UK’s relationship with Russia.
“A lot of Chelsea fans will want to know if he’s still going to be putting money in,” chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol told Sky Sports News. “I believe he will continue to back the club, but that of course could change if the UK Government announce he is being sanctioned – but they haven’t done that so far.”
There have been calls from MPs this week that Russian-born Abramovich should not be allowed to own Chelsea due to his alleged links to Vladimir Putin’s regime.
After Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on Tuesday, Labour MP Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that the Russian-Israeli billionaire should have his assets seized, questioned whether he should be allowed to operate a football club himself, and quoted a leaked government document suggesting he should not be allowed to be based in the UK.
What has Abramovich said?
In a rare statement from Abramovich, which was released on the club’s website on Saturday evening but did not reference either Putin or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Chelsea owner said: “During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.
“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.
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“I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans.”
So who is now in charge at Chelsea?
Abramovich’s statement has been criticised by Sky Sports pundit Micah Richards with the former England defender asking: “There’s so many questions which need to be asked, and to come out with a statement just like that; what does it even mean?
“If you read it, it reads like it’s written in a code – we don’t exactly want to tell you what’s happening, but here you go, read this, pick the bones out of it and see exactly what it means.
“I think it’s poor.”
It is understood Abramovich will no longer be involved in club matters on a day-to-day basis and all long-term strategic decision-making powers are being handed over to the Chelsea Foundation.
The Chelsea Foundation’s trustees are Bruce Buck, John Devine, Emma Hayes, Piara Powar, and Hugh Robertson.
For transfers, executive director Marina Granovskaia, technical advisor Petr Cech and head coach Thomas Tuchel will continue to operate within the budgets set by the club.
“As far as football matters are concerned, nothing changes,” reported Solhekol.
Chelsea face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
Ahead of the Wembley showpiece, Tuchel admitted he understood criticism directed at Chelea in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s distracting us, it’s worrying us, to a certain degree I can understand it, I can understand the critical opinions towards the club and us who represent it,” said Tuchel. “We cannot fully free ourselves from it.”