Roman’s got to go. Hand in your keys to the club before you do more damage to those who don’t deserve it. As it turns out, plenty of people who said politics had no place in sports really meant politics that they don’t agree with had no room at the table. Loud banishment of policy came at the intersection of Colin Kaepernick and kneeling for the national anthem, much to the behest of former President Donald Trump, as well as the despicable murder of George Floyd, spilling into nearly every game in the NBA and WNBA bubbles.
Thursday morning, the harsh reality of supporting a dictator who started a senseless war will come back to bite current, and soon-to-be former, Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, who should pay for his long-standing pro-Putin views. The United Kingdom’s government sanctioned Abramovich and froze his assets, throwing the defending UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup winners into turmoil.
Abramovich had recently announced intentions to sell Chelsea FC after 18 years owning London’s most successful Premier League club amid mounting pressure on everyone who’s shown support to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In late February, Abramovich placed “stewardship and care” of Chelsea FC to the Chelsea Charitable Foundation, confirming last week the team needs a new owner because of the invasion of Ukraine.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited having “no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine,” as reasoning for sanctioning Ambramovich. And good for the British for jumping on this. It’s a big move and a deserved one. Accountability is the best word to describe this pressure as it shows no one is above being targeted for having a friendship with Putin. Shame on Abramovich for not realizing a move like this was possible sooner and avoiding Chelsea’s new-found chaos.
Chelsea was issued a special exception by the U.K. government, allowing the football club to continue to play games, pay staff and allow season-ticket holders to attend games. Chelsea’s next two EPL matches against Norwich City and Newcastle will be played as scheduled, as well as the team’s Champions League Round of 16 second leg at Lille next Wednesday.
The sale of Chelsea FC has stalled with the exception not allowing it. Ambramovich would have to allow the U.K. government to take over the process, likely receiving no compensation for any sale. Multiple online reports stated a group led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-time owner Todd Boehly had submitted a bid to take over The Blues. Ambramovich values the club at around $3 billion.
The exception’s license also does not cover buying new players, agreeing to new contracts with current roster members and selling new tickets for all games. The transfer window is closed until July 1, but a trio of integral — team captain Cesar Azpilicueta, defender Antonio Rudiger and midfielder Andreas Christensen — all have deals expiring at the end of the season. That’s half of the team’s starting back line open to the free market unless something changes.
The license expires May 31, conveniently three days after the 2022 UEFA Champions League Final, which was moved out of St. Petersburg to Saint-Denis, France, another result of Putin’s war crimes. The Russian national soccer team has also been banned from qualifying for this year’s FIFA World Cup because of the needless invasion.
Abramovich has no choice. For the better of the club he’s said to love so much, take the loss and sell Chelsea to someone who hasn’t supported one of the world’s worst people. Exercise minimum human decency so others aren’t also brought down with your poor choices. Throughout his tenure atop CFC, Ambramovich has had a quick trigger finger for firing coaches, with money being little influence for change. He fired Jose Mourinho twice, handed Roberto Di Matteo the pink slip six months after he led the team to its first Champions League crown in 2012 and rid Chelsea of club legend Frank Lampard last January after 18 months as manager.
Now that it’s his head on the chopping block, Abramovich needs to hold himself to the same standards and cut off his ties to Chelsea, regardless of money, before things get worse. And with Putin’s intentions driving further into madness, The Blues situation could plummet into deeper hysteria quickly. Of course, the Kremlin lover will feel differently now that his bank accounts are affected and won’t be willing to hand over “his” club without proper reimbursement. Maybe have your buddy Putin reimburse you.