ROMAN’S FORTUNES IN TURMOIL!—As Ukraine war drains Russian oligarchs… BY JOSHUA GEORGE

BLOOD DIAMOND: Roman has given fans incredible memories but it is appalling where his funding has come from!

By Joshua George

Roman Abramovich has gone from hero to zero overnight for the club’s loyal season ticket holders. The success he delivered stemmed from the bloodstained brutality of Putin’s Russia. Chelsea is now in the most perilous position….

ROMAN Abramovich is the symbol of Russian money in the English Premier League. Ever since he took over Chelsea Football Club in 2003, his passion for the game has seen the London outfit lift 21 trophies, including their first Premier League and Champions League title. Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Roman has come under a lot of scrutiny due to his close ties with the Russian supremo Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich was accused of gifting Vladimir Putin a yacht, something he later denied and won apologies from the media — after he threatened a multi-million dollar defamation suit against them! When a Swiss police report said his fortune was “at least partially of illegal origin,” his lawyers cleared his name. Therefore, he has no criminal convictions.
Then why is Roman Abramovich selling Chelsea?
Ever since the UK government delayed the renewal of his visa in 2018, Roman’s position at Chelsea had reached a point where it was untenable. The growing pressure from MPs of the British Parliament on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ban Russian businessmen, has forced Roman to put Chelsea up for sale.
As he attempts to sell Chelsea Football Club, he is not on the US or EU sanction list; however, the UK has now sanctioned him and he has now plunged the future of Chelsea into turmoil. The fact that his investments and property could be seized had forced Roman to get out while he could. However, a recent announcement of sanctions being levied on him, have the potential of driving Roman’s Chelsea into huge financial losses.
In the current scenario it is likely that the government will take control of the sale and the proceeds would be frozen or go into a charitable fund, possibly for war victims in Ukraine. That effectively leaves Abramovich with two options: Agree to government conditions and lose the club for nothing or let Chelsea slowly rot.
Roman’s $13.5bn fortune stems from the 1990s, when he was close to Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president and Boris Berezovsky, a former government official in the Russian administration, as they carved up Russia’s resources which primarily involved investments in oil fields.
Roman’s tenure as owner of Chelsea Football Club set a precedent that most club owners aped to achieve. His billions transformed Chelsea and made other fans dream of such a windfall. The Premier League allowed in owners such as Birmingham City’s Carson Yeung, who was later jailed for money laundering, and Portsmouth’s Vladimir Antonov who was arrested for embezzlement.
The invasion of Ukraine has had a significant impact on the Premier League oligarchs and Russian sponsorship deals with various clubs. Everton Football Club has had to suspend sponsorship deals with companies of Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born Russian billionaire, who had entered into a five year 15 million deal with Everton, for the naming rights of the club’s training ground Finch Farm.

SUSPENDED: Premier League heavyweights Manchesters United have officailly confirmed that they will drop Russian airline, Aeroflot, as a sponser, after Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, declared an unprovoked war against Ukraine

Post the Ukraine invasion Usmanov has faced sanctions from the UK, US and has even been blacklisted by the European Union, imposing an EU wide travel ban and the freezing of his assets. Manchester United have also been forced to suspend their sponsorship deal with Russian airline company Aeroflot.
The league’s rules don’t allow owners or directors who have been jailed for a year or have a conviction for any act involving dishonesty. People can also be banned if the league’s board decides they committed such an offence outside the UK. However, these rules place the burden of investigation on the league and they don’t stop autocratic regimes. Therefore, this has exposed loopholes in which accused criminals like Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, could buy Newcastle United. Maybe Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman couldn’t buy Newcastle United as a singularity, but the sovereign wealth fund that he controls did.
Despite protests by a certain section of fans, pundits, government officials, etc, some fans dressed up in Arab attire to celebrate the new ownership. The Saudi Arabian Public Investment fund recently acquired Newcastle United which is worth $325 billion, making it the richest ownership in the football world.
Manchester City is owned by Sheikh Mansour, who is the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. The Manchester Club has been regularly accused of breaching Financial Fair Play rules but manage to sidestep sanctions through court appeals and bribes. Who is confident that these links won’t become untenable one day? And can Roman’s exit from Chelsea set a precedent for things to come?
For now, there seems to be a growing gap between the social conscience of the players and the silence of the club owners. Prior to the sanctions being imposed on Thursday, March 10, 2022 Abramovich had issued two statements last week. Neither included the words “Putin”, “Russia” or “invasion.” That seems odd from someone who has marked donations to the Ukraine holocaust. Roman had pretended to save face by announcing that he would not be asking for any loans to be repaid and asking his team of representatives to set up a charitable foundation, so that the net proceeds from the sale of the club will be donated to the victims of the war in Ukraine.
With the UK government now putting a freeze on Roman’s assets the sale of the club will be put on hold. Besides the sale of the club being put on hold, new contracts, player transfer or official merchandise sales for Chelsea have now officially been prohibited by the UK government. Only season ticket holders can go to games. Chelsea can still operate if they apply for a special license but the sale has been put on hold. These measure is valid until May 31, 2022 unless it is renewed, revoked or the club is sold.This effectively means Chelsea could still be sold only in case Roman Abramovich will allow the UK government to take over the process.
Thus, the Premier League needs to grapple with people using its brand to wash their own. It is successful enough to limit high-risk owners and attract decent ones. Swiss national Hansjörg Wyss, a medical devices billionaire who has pledged $1.2bn to nature conservation, is interested in Chelsea alongside a consortium of other investors. The league is considering a human rights clause for owners. It also wants to control players’ salaries, which might attract more investors. Fans should put values before trophies. But perhaps the old phrase of money talks and bulls**t walks seems to always prevail.

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