The U.K. government said on Thursday it had imposed asset freezes on seven Russian businessmen including Roman Abramovich, Igor Sechin, Oleg Deripaska and Dmitri Lebedev after they were added to the country’s sanctions list
Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea football club, Deripaska has stakes in En+ Group, Sechin is the chief executive of Rosneft and Lebedev is chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya.
The U.K. government said it would enable Chelsea to continue playing matches after it imposed sanctions on Abramovich, halting his plan to sell the English Premier League side.
Abramovich had put the club up for sale, but Britain’s asset freeze and sanctions on him bar that process under the terms of the licence granted to the club.
Nadine Dorries, Britain’s minister for sport, said the government had issued a special licence to enable Chelsea to play fixtures, pay staff and enable ticket holders to attend matches, because it did not want to harm the reigning European and world football champions.
“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended,” she said on Twitter. “Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.”
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, sparking a period of unprecedented success — and spending — for the club, which won five league titles and two Champions League trophies under his ownership.
Chelsea season ticket holders and those who have already bought tickets may attend matches, and parties who purchased or produced club merchandise prior to Thursday can still sell it, the government said.
Broadcasters are allowed to broadcast any fixtures involving Chelsea under pre-existing arrangements, and can pay revenue to the club for broadcasting licensing related to those fixtures.
Payment arrangements for deals to loan or transfer players, agreed prior to the sanctions, can also take place.
The government said the licence, which came into effect on Thursday and expires on May 31, would be kept under review.
Sources have told ESPN that Abramovich has received multiple bids for Chelsea but none have yet matched his £3 billion ($3.94bn) valuation.
According to sources. a consortium including Los Angeles Dodgers and LA Lakers part-owner Todd Boehly alongside Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss have already tabled a bid in an effort to push ahead in the race.
Thursday’s action means Abramovich is banned from carrying out transactions with British individuals and businesses, and cannot enter or stay in Britain. His spokeswoman declined immediate comment.
Abramovich is the biggest shareholder in London-listed Russian steelmaker Evraz EVRE.L. It fell 16% after the sanctions were announced.
The entry on Britain’s sanctions list described Abramovich, who Britain said was worth £9bn, as “a prominent Russian businessman and pro-Kremlin oligarch.”
It said he had enjoyed “a close relationship for decades” with the Russian president. It said this association with Putin had brought Abramovich a financial or material benefit from either the Russian president directly, or the Russian government.
“This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run up to the FIFA 2018 World Cup,” the website said.
A Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) spokesperson released a statement which read: “The CST notes with concern the government’s statement regarding the owner.Supporters must be involved in any conversation regarding ongoing impacts on the club and its global fan base.
“The CST implores the government to conduct a swift process to minimise the uncertainty over Chelsea’s future, for supporters and for supporters to be given a golden share as part of a sale of the club.
“There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin‘s vicious assault on Ukraine,” Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the UK, said.
“Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”
Abramovich has assets frozen before selling Chelsea
Anticipating a sanction like this, Abramovich had tried to sell the club. He announced last week that he’ll listen to offers, but there wasn’t enough time for the team to be sold, even if the first official bids were expected this week.
Therefore, Chelsea may be affected by this decision to freeze Abramovich‘s assets.
Nadine Dorries, who is the UK’s secretary of state for sport, released a statement of her own to try to reassure Chelsea supporters
Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans,” she said.
“We have been working hard to ensure the club and the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.
“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club
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