Chelsea billionaire owner Roman Abramovich on Saturday announced he is handing “stewardship and care” of the club to the “trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation”, amid Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.
Following the invasion of Ukraine by the Kremlin on Thursday, a number of Russian billionaires have been slapped with sanctions.
Though Abramovich was not included, ministers have been urged to seize or freeze his assets in the UK after he was named as person of interest in 2019 because of his links to the Russian state.
Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed in the House of Commons on Thursday that the UK government should seize Abramovich’s assets and remove the 55-year-old from Chelsea’s ownership.
A statement from Abramovich published by the club read: “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.”
It is not yet clear what impact, if any, the statement will have on day-to-day affairs at Chelsea.
Abramovich remains the club’s owner, though he will not be involved in decision-making, and there has been no timeframe put on his decision to step back.
The 55-year-old’s move is said to be an attempt to protect the club from reputational damage from continual links to the situation in Ukraine. However, it is unlikely to have any bearing on potential UK Government sanctions.
The six-strong group of trustees currently listed by the Chelsea Foundation includes the club’s chairman Bruce Buck, women’s head coach Emma Hayes, anti-racism campaigner Piara Powar and former Minister for Sport Sir Hugh Robertson, who is also the chairman of the British Olympic Association.
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