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Roman Abramovich gives Chelsea ‘stewardship’ to trustees of charitable arm

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich says he is «giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care» of the club.

Abramovich, who will remain the club’s owner, has made the move amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was made on the eve of Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final match against Liverpool at Wembley.

«I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,» Abramovich said in a statement.external-link

«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.»

Following Abramovich’s statement which did not reference the invasion of Ukraine, Chelsea released another statement on Sunday which said the situation was «horrific and devastating».

«Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace,» said the west London club.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it was «seeking urgent clarification» on what Abramovich’s statement on Saturday means for the running of the club.

It is not known yet if Abramovich will be sanctioned as part of the UK government’s measures against Russia.

BBC Sport understands Chelsea are not for sale, and the £1.5bn loan their owner gave to the club is not being called in.

Abramovich is one of Russia’s richest people and is believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He added: «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.»

The Chelsea Foundation runs the club’s community and education departments as well as other charitable activities. Its chairman is US lawyer Bruce Buck, who is also chairman of the club as a whole.

The foundation’s other trustees are Chelsea women’s team manager Emma Hayes, the club’s director of finance Paul Ramos, British Olympic Association chair Sir Hugh Robertson, Fare (Football Against Racism in Europe) chief Piara Powar and lawyer John Devine.

During Abramovich’s time at Chelsea, the club have won the Champions League twice, both the Premier League and FA Cup five times, the Europa League twice and the League Cup three times.

In August 2021, they won the Uefa Super Cup and they recently won their first Club World Cup, meaning the Blues have won every possible trophy under Abramovich’s ownership.

Earlier in the week, Labour’s Chris Bryant told MPs he had a leaked Home Office document that suggested Abramovich should not be able to base himself in the UK.

Downing Street would not be drawn on the claims about Abramovich made in the House of Commons.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel had said on Friday there were «so many uncertainties around the situation of our club» following Russia’s invasion of a neighbouring country.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it was «ready to work with the trustees of the Chelsea Foundation in order to ensure the long-term interests of the club and supporters». It added: «We stand with the people of Ukraine.»

Analysis

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, The Price of Football Podcast

The words Roman Abramovich has used are not ones we would normally use from a legal perspective.

He has said he is handing across control to the club’s charitable foundation so he will no longer be the person making the final decisions in regards to the transfer budget, the manager and other key elements of the club.

He does own the club. Chelsea FC is owned by a company called Fordstam, and Fordstam has borrowed £1.5bn from a company called Camberley International, which is based in the British Virgin Islands, and that company is controlled by Roman Abramovich, so it is already a fairly convoluted structure.

How the Chelsea Foundation will be funded, we are not certain.

I think Abramovich will be concerned – if the UK government tries to seize his assets then those assets would include Chelsea Football Club and that could have implications if this conflict drags on for a long period of time in terms of how the club would be funded.

Clearly, there would be reluctance for it to be funded by the taxpayer.

By transferring it to the foundation, which is a charitable arm and he is not one of the trustees – although some people with long business connections are on the foundation – his legal team would be able to say Chelsea could not be seized by the government.

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