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14 Mar, 2022 11:00

Abramovich sanctions ‘make no difference’ to Putin – ex-Chelsea owner

British businessman Ken Bates, who sold Chelsea to Roman Abramovich in 2003, has savaged the UK Government's decision to sanction the club
Abramovich sanctions ‘make no difference’ to Putin – ex-Chelsea owner

The UK Government's sanctions on Roman Abramovich and Chelsea over the attack on Ukraine will hurt the club's staff and have no impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country's citizens, former club owner Ken Bates has insisted in a tirade against the British Civil Service.

British businessman Bates, who sold Chelsea to Abramovich for around $183 million in 2003, took aim over the potentially crippling punishments imposed on the Premier League giants.

Chelsea cannot sell matchday tickets and merchandise, sign players or tie stars to new contracts under a range of restrictions that fans fear could prevent the club from finishing the season. 

Russian billionaire Abramovich has bankrolled Chelsea to huge success since taking over but has now been barred from completing the sale he announced shortly after the conflict began.

"The fact that you can't buy a Chelsea match programme must mean that Putin is sh*tting himself and all the ordinary people of Moscow are hiding in their cellars because they can't see a Chelsea match on TV," the notoriously forthright Bates told MailOnline from his Monte Carlo base.

"As usual, it is the ordinary people who are suffering. You've probably got people working at Chelsea saying do they have a job?

"What is their future? Do they have security? And fans at Chelsea. That is hurting ordinary English citizens.

"Makes no difference at all to Russia. It makes the Civil Service a laughing stock of the world. I've dealt with civil servants most of my life and, by and large, they're all bloody useless.

"Abramovich turned around and said, 'I'm going sell the club and whatever I get, I'm going to give to charity.'

"They [the Government] have taken over the club. Fine. Why didn't they appoint an administrator and get on with it?

"Instead, we've got all these regulations which just get some good headlines: 'England takes firm action against Russia.' If we are trying to help Ukraine we should be doing things that are meaningful."

Abramovich was sanctioned because of what the UK Government described as his close ties to Putin.

Chelsea have one of the largest wage bills of any football club in the world and have matched that outlay by frequently spending huge amounts on transfers, including the arrival of club record signing Romelu Lukaku last summer for around $130 million.

Abramovich has always denied he has done anything to warrant being sanctioned.

"Selling it to a Russian was the same as selling to anybody else," Bates said, discussing a deal that raised the spending stakes in English football when he ended his ownership of a business he reputedly bought for little more than $1 in 1982.

"It was no different in those days. The dealings I had with him were always straightforward and simple.

"I don't feel sympathy for him. Why should I? He's worth £7-8 billion [$9.1-$10.4 billion.]

"But he can only eat steak and chips twice a day, same as me. When he goes to his grave, his shroud won't have any pockets in it."

Dozens of wealthy potential bidders have been linked with buying Chelsea. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is said to be keen on a quick sale under special dispensation if the buyers meet the Premier League's requirements.

Third-placed Chelsea beat Newcastle 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to record a fourth successive victory despite their turmoil off the pitch.

The Blues are favourites to reach the quarterfinals in the defense of their Champions League title when they travel to French side Lille on Wednesday with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg of their round of 16 tie.