Chelsea sale thrown into turmoil as Abramovich sanctioned
The sale of Chelsea FC has been cast into uncertainty after owner Roman Abramovich's assets were frozen by the UK government.
Abramovich first tried to hand over "stewardship and care" to the club's trustees before confirming last week that he was looking to sell the reigning European and world champions.
Those steps came as the British authorities received pressure to sanction the 55-year-old as a response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine – a step which they announced on Thursday.
Abramovich was the second name featured on a 42-page document released by the UK government, which detailed Russian individuals and entities that have been sanctioned and now have their assets frozen on British shores.
This means that Abramovich, who has reportedly valued Chelsea at around £4 billion ($5.3 billion), will be barred from selling the club while the sanctions are in force unless the UK government controls the process.
Chelsea have been granted a sporting license to continue playing their fixtures, but can no longer sell tickets to their games at Stamford Bridge, which will only be attended by season ticket holders.
Their club merchandise shop must also close, and the west Londoners cannot sign or sell players either.
Furthermore, the measures could also determine the previously uncertain fate of players about to become free agents, who now can't be offered new contracts under measures which expire on May 31, 2022, but can be reviewed.
Among other things, the UK has accused Abramovich of being “associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilizing Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin.”
Abramovich has consistently rejected any connections with the Russian president and vehemently denies that he has provided any reason to be sanctioned.
Abramovich's near two-decade reign at Chelsea since taking over in 2003 has yielded a steady return of major titles.
With their most recent triumph a maiden Club World Cup win over Palmeiras in Abu Dhabi last month, the Blues have won every major trophy in football and no fewer than 21 pieces of silverware on Abramovich's watch.
Parties interested in buying Chelsea before the latest developments included British property tycoon Nick Candy, a consortium headed by part-LA Dodgers owner Todd Boehly and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak.
Separately, they are said to have made or readied offers between £2 billion ($2.6 billion) and £2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) for the club, with Candy's proposal including plans to renovate Stamford Bridge.