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15 Mar, 2022 10:56

Chelsea fans must stop ‘inappropriate’ Abramovich gesture, says PM spokesperson

A spokesman for the British PM urged Chelsea fans to avoid any shows of support for the Russian billionaire
Chelsea fans must stop ‘inappropriate’ Abramovich gesture, says PM spokesperson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman has said that Chelsea fans must stop their "completely inappropriate" chants of support for club owner Roman Abramovich.

Prior to his assets being frozen by the UK government in the wake of Russia's military operation in Ukraine and alleged links to President Vladimir Putin, Abramovich had put the club up for sale on March 2 with the Saudi Media Group said to have made a concrete $3.5 billion offer on Monday.

At the weekend during their side's 1-0 home win over Newcastle United sealed by an 89th minute Kai Havertz winner, a pocket of Chelsea fans again voiced their support for Abramovich with chants during the second half that Johnson's spokesman has since dubbed "completely inappropriate," while a "Roman Empire" banner with Abramovich's face and the Russian flag on it was also proudly on display.

"We recognize the strength of feeling around people's clubs but that does not excuse behavior which is completely inappropriate at this time," the spokesman said.

"I think people can show passion and support for their club without resorting to that sort of stuff," he added.

With Chelsea currently operating on a special license which allows them to play fixtures but not generate new revenue – with only season ticket holders and no away support allowed to their home games – the spokesman also confirmed that the government is "open to the sale of the club."

"We would consider an application for a license to allow that to happen in the right circumstances," the spokesman stated.

"But it is for Chelsea to determine the exact process. My understanding is potential buyers would approach the club, who would then need to apply for a further amended license to facilitate the sale. As far as I'm aware that hasn't happened at this point," he revealed.

The British government will therefore oversee Chelsea's sale to make sure Abramovich cannot benefit from it in any way, with New York investment bank the Raine Group also involved.

Takeover bids from the likes of the Saudi Media Group and British property tycoon Nick Candy, said to be offering a lesser £2.5 billion ($3.25 billion), also include plans to overhaul Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium which is in need of modernization to match the much bigger grounds of cross-city rivals such as Tottenham Hotspur.

Until power has been handed over by Abramovich, who has owned the Blues since 2003 and has witnessed them win 21 trophies on his watch, Johnson's spokesman has not ruled out the hotel on the premises being used by Ukrainian refugees.

"We would certainly want to see wherever is possible [used], we are open to all options," the spokesman said.

Allowed to spend just £20,000 ($26,000) in travel expenses, Chelsea head to France this week to take on Lille in defense of their Champions League crown while holding a 2-0 advantage on aggregate in the last 16 tie.

Trying to lift the mood, first team coach Thomas Tuchel has offered to drive a minibus to the reigning Ligue 1 kings if need be.

"I think practically what’s changed is more for the guys who for example organized the journey to Lille because they had to figure out how we were arriving there," Tuchel said on Monday, as per the adjustments that have been made in response to the sanctions.

"My last information was that we have a plane. We can go by plane and come back by plane. If not, we go by train. If not, we go by bus. If not, I drive a seven-seater, honestly!

"And I will do [it]. You can mark my words, I will do [it]. I will arrive there. I mean if you asked me 20 years ago, 30 years ago, if I would join a Champions League match at the sideline and what I was willing to do, I would say: 'OK, when do I have to be there?' And why should this change?" Tuchel asked.

"I will be there and we will be there. Of course, organization-wise there are some negotiations going on and talks, but it doesn't influence me," the German concluded.

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