Defiant Chelsea fans display Abramovich banner
Chelsea fans defiantly displayed a banner dedicated to owner Roman Abramovich at their Premier League game against Newcastle on Sunday, even after the Russian billionaire was slapped with sanctions by the UK government.
The banner reading ‘The Roman Empire’ with an image of Abramovich and the colors of the Russian flag was on show at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea earned a 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from Kai Havertz.
The match was Chelsea’s first home game since Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government last week over the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
The Russian oligarch’s UK assets have been frozen, throwing Chelsea’s future into uncertainty.
Chelsea have been granted a general license to continue operating and playing matches, although they are subject to bans on ticket and merchandise sales.
Expenditure for matchdays both home and away is limited, and the Blues are also prevented from doing transfer business or negotiating new contracts with players.
Crucially, Abramovich is now prevented from selling the club unless a deal is sanctioned by the UK government and he receives none of the proceeds.
Over the weekend, the Premier League announced that Abramovich had been disqualified as a director of the club, while several Chelsea sponsors have suspended their relationships, the latest being car manufacturer Hyundai.
Chelsea fans have been criticized in recent days for continuing to chant Abramovich’s name, with UK government minister Chris Philp urging them to refrain from any show of support for the businessman who was sanctioned for alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin – something that Abramovich has consistently denied.
Amid the uncertainty over Chelsea’s financial status, reports in the UK media claim that several stars are already mulling their future, although Thomas Tuchel reiterated after the Newcastle game that he would remain until at least the end of the season.
“There’s no doubt I’ll stay until the end of the season, absolutely,” said the German, who has guided the Blues to the Champions League and Club World Cup crowns in his 13 months in charge.
“We just have to wait and we still have to go day by day because everything can change.
“But as you know, the situation is clear: the club’s for sale, and hopefully it will go through to sort things out and give us a perspective.
“But it’s pure speculation and I have no further information than you already have.”
Chelsea next face a trip to France to play Lille in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, with Tuchel pledging that he would drive the team to the match if necessary.
“My last information is that we have a plane, that we can go by plane and come back by plane,” Tuchel said when asked about the cost restrictions placed on Chelsea which cap spending at £20,000 ($27,000) per away game.
“If not we go by train, if not we go by bus – if not, I drive a seven-seater. And I will do. Mark my words I will do, I will arrive there,” said Tuchel.
Sunday’s game against Newcastle played out against a politically charged backdrop, with the visitors from the North East facing their own scrutiny over their new Saudi owners.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe refused to answer questions about the club’s majority owners, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), when it was put to him that the Middle Eastern Kingdom had executed 81 people one day previously for terrorism-related offenses.