Chelsea unveil crypto deal as club usher in post-Abramovich era
Chelsea have unveiled a new sponsorship deal with cryptocurrency group WhaleFin worth a reported £20 million ($24.4 million) per year despite sanctions imposed on the club by the UK government.
Sky News first revealed that the Blues were close to striking an agreement with the digital asset platform, which is owned by the Singapore-based Amber Group and will now become the club's shirt-sleeve sponsor.
On Thursday, Chelsea said they were "excited to reveal" the news on social media and on the club's official site, with the collaboration getting under way from the 2022/2023 season onwards.
"As part of the partnership agreement, Chelsea and Amber Group will collaborate on a range of partnership activities which will focus on growing the WhaleFin brand globally," the club said.
The news comes as Chelsea continue to operate under a special license that expires on May 31, and which was imposed after the UK government sanctioned Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
WhaleFin is thrilled to be part of the beautiful game, and we are honoured to support the players and fans of @ChelseaFC! Excited to bring the digital asset experience to football fans around the world. https://t.co/w723O42TAx— WhaleFin (@WhaleFinApp) May 12, 2022
An agreement for WhaleFin deal was reportedly signed in January, some two months before Abramovich put the club up for sale and then had his assets frozen for alleged links to President Vladimir Putin as part of the UK government's response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
Elsewhere, WhaleFin has already struck an agreement with Atletico Madrid to put its logo on the La Liga giants' shirts, which is said to be worth €40 million ($41.7 million) a year.
Simultaneously, Amber Group has been reported as holding talks to raise new funds at a valuation hovering around the $10 billion mark.
Amber Group's backers include some of the venture capital industry's most prolific investors such as Tiger Global Management, Temasek Holdings and Sequoia China.
With this development, WhaleFin replaces Hyundai as Chelsea's sleeve sponsor with the car manufacturer from Korea said to be discussing alternative ways of sponsoring the club.
Elsewhere, Chelsea are also reportedly looking for a replacement for '3' as its main shirt sponsor after the UK mobile phone group suspended their agreement worth a reported £40mn ($52.5mn) a year.
Forming an alliance with WhaleFin is Chelsea's first venture into cryptocurrency, with Liverpool also mooting a potential deal in the sector to oust its main shirt sponsor Standard Chartered.
Given that Manchester United already have a deal with Tezos, though, Chelsea's partnership with WhaleFin is not a first across the Premier League in general.
After a consortium led by LA Dodgers baseball franchise owner Todd Boehly agreed a £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) deal announced in the early hours of last Saturday morning, Chelsea is set to change hands with the clock running to meet the May 31 deadline when their special license expires.
Obstacles standing in the way of the takeover from the group backed by private equity firm Clearlake Capital, however, are passing the owners' and directors' test and having the deal greenlit by the UK government.
On the pitch and away from the business arena, Chelsea can add the FA Cup to their maiden Club World Cup title earlier this year by beating Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday.