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6 May, 2020 14:21

'Roman has been phenomenal': Chelsea women's lynchpin hails Abramovich's support for club & carers during coronavirus crisis

'Roman has been phenomenal': Chelsea women's lynchpin hails Abramovich's support for club & carers during coronavirus crisis

Chelsea hotshot Beth England has praised Russian owner Roman Abramovich's continuing support for players and staff during the Covid-19 outbreak and spoken glowingly about the resources he has provided to aid healthcare efforts.

England and her fellow squad members have seen their title challenge in the Women's Super League suspended while football has been on hold across Europe as a result of the pandemic, remaining on full pay courtesy of the backing of Abramovich at the helm of the Premier League club.

Abramovich sanctioned the Blues' widely-praised move to open their Stamford Bridge home to the National Health Service (NHS), accommodating staff in 128 hotel rooms at the stadium while offering free meals as part of a scheme that has provided thousands of meals to healthcare and charity workers.

"Roman Abramovich has looked after all the staff,"said England, who is the league's joint top scorer with 14 goals this season.

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"He has been phenomenal and look at what he's done for the NHS as well."

While some clubs endured a public relations disaster at the onset of the epidemic amid accusations of greed, Chelsea have won new admirers for their work with communities and decision not to take advantage of the government furloughing scheme which pays a proportion of staff wages with the aim of preventing job losses.

Instead, Chelsea have continued to fully fulfil their annual wage bill of around $345 million, as well as paying casual staff for matchdays which have not gone ahead.

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England and her fellow players have been encouraged to support charities rather than take pay cuts, although the club hinted that talks around potential salary sacrifices could resume in the future.

"We still don't know a great deal and there are conversations going on behind closed doors [about issues] that need to be discussed," admitted the midfielder.

"Obviously they're taking into consideration how the players feel about the situation but it's out of our hands and we're leaving it to the people that are best placed."

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The Chelsea Women squad met Abramovich in Jerusalem in August during a trip to play their Israel counterparts and promote the development of women's football in the country where the Russian national became a citizen in 2018.

England took just five minutes to show Abramovich why she has become a key member of the team she joined in 2016, scoring the opener in a 3-1 win for the visitors at the HaMoshava Stadium in Petah Tikva.

"We talked about the women's game and how the trip has gone," manager Emma Hayes said during the tour. "Roman showed his passion for the team and the women’s game in general."

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