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17 May, 2022 16:53

It will be ‘criminal’ if politics derail Chelsea sale, says charity chief

The former UNICEF official said the sale of the club must go through
It will be ‘criminal’ if politics derail Chelsea sale, says charity chief

The man tasked with setting up a charitable foundation to handle the funds from Roman Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea has claimed it would be disastrous if "political" disputes end up sinking the deal.

Reports this week have claimed Abramovich and the UK government are locked in a row over the structure of the takeover deal and fate of a £1.6 billion loan ($2 billion) which the Russian businessman has pledged to write off.

Abramovich has vowed that all the proceeds from the sale of the club he bought in 2003 will go to a foundation set up to aid the victims of the conflict in Ukraine.

The UK government must sign off on the deal after sanctioning Abramovich back in April and is said to be demanding a different structure to the takeover, with lingering concerns that the billionaire could still stand to benefit from the sale to a consortium led by Todd Boehly.

Meanwhile, UNICEF UK executive director Mike Penrose has sent a "scoping document" to British authorities which outlines plans for "the world’s biggest humanitarian or conflict-affected charity" which he thinks could "change the face of humanitarian aid" if politics don't get in the way. 

"The only thing between this becoming a reality and now is politics," Penrose claimed to the PA.

"I have absolutely no interest in the politics of the sale. I have no interest in the politics of the government. If politics gets in the way, then that is to me almost criminal, it really is," Pence stressed.

"I’ve written into the document that’s gone to the government that no-one who has ever been associated with the club, associated with the owner, can or will ever receive financial benefit," Penrose outlined.

"And that would go into the articles of association of the foundation. That’s written into the document that’s now in the hands of the government.

"I’ve written an overview, a scoping document on the foundation, on what we want to achieve, and an initial budget to set the thing up, and get it running and allocating money," Penrose went on, saying he would like to say he is "confident" of the foundation going in the right direction but is admittedly "nervous about the politics of it all."

"I’ve spent my entire life in humanitarian aid, and I’m very worried that what might come out of this is politics over decent humanitarian action," Penrose said.

"But on the other hand I also hope that this government sees the opportunity that it has here. The UK government could create the world’s leading humanitarian foundation, and I’m prepared to stand up in front of any government committee, panel, anything, and attest to the neutrality of how this is being created.

"I hope they see fit to allow it to go ahead, and I hope they allow us to get the money to the front line in Ukraine very quickly," Penrose urged.

Penrose said that the foundation could "change the face of humanitarian aid" as the world's "biggest humanitarian or conflict-affected charity."

"The person I have to be the chair is a former UN chief, one of the most respected humanitarians on the planet," Penrose revealed. "And the people to govern the money are world leaders."

"To manage the money that’s coming out, I have one of the world’s leading law firms, and I’m contacting some of the best fund managers on the planet.

"So this wouldn’t just have [an] impact today or tomorrow – this could have an impact for decades. This could be game-changing," Penrose insisted.

Currently on the ground in Ukraine, Penrose told of how Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck contacted him with a "very clear brief" to set up a foundation "for the victims of [the] conflict using the proceeds from the Chelsea sale."

"Money from the sale would go into an account managed by one of the world’s leading law firms, completely independent of Chelsea and Roman Abramovich," Penrose said. 

"That firm and me would have to validate any money being spent," he detailed, saying that if the UK government "give us the green light in the next few days", the foundation can be set up in a couple of months with "money on the ground in hours or days after that".

"If the government chooses to do this, it could be enormous," Penrose also remarked.

With issues such as the allocation of the proceeds and Abramovich's alleged request to be repaid his loan lingering over the club, Chelsea face a race against time to finalize the sale before May 31 when their special license to operate expires.