Roman Abramovich has given up his stewardship of Chelsea in order to stop the club ‘becoming hostage to anti-Russian sanctions’, according to a close friend of the billionaire.
On Saturday, Chelsea confirmed that Abramovich has passed his stewardship to the trustees of the club’s charitable foundation.
Chelsea’s charitable foundation is led the club’s chairman Bruce Buck. The other trustees are Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes. Chelsea’s director of finance Paul Ramos, Piara Powar, who is the executive director of anti-racism organisation Fare. Sebastian Coe, who is the president of World Athletics. Hugh Robertson, who is the chairman of the British Olympic Association and a former MP, and sports lawyer John Devine.
Abramovich can continue to fund Chelsea, while the inner workings of the club will remain unchanged with Marina Granovskaia still in control of football operations.
However, Abramovich has moved to distance himself from the club following the decision taken by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
‘He’s really doing it to stop the club becoming hostage to anti-Russian sanctions, which are going to be around for a while now,’ a friend of Abramovich told the Financial Times.
Earlier this week, the UK Government announced a list of sanctions against Russian banks, oligarchs and companies.
While Abramovich has not been sanctioned, Labour MP Chris Bryant has called for the seizure of his assets, including Chelsea.
‘I’ve got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office, which says, in relation to Mr. Abramovich,’ Bryant told the House of Commons.
‘As part of HMGs Russia strategy, aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interests to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices.
‘An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence.
‘Therefore HMG is focused on ensuring individuals linked to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal including immigration powers to prevent this.
‘That’s nearly three years ago, and yet remarkably little has been done in relation Surely Mr. Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country?
‘Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets, including his 152 million pound home? And making sure that other people who’ve had tier one visas like this are not engaged in malign activity in the UK.’
In his statement on Saturday, Abramovich 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.
‘I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.’