Chelsea Owner Roman Abramovich Held ‘Secret’ Stakes in Players at Other Clubs

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Abramovich was behind a company that had stakes in various players | BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich previously owned third-party stakes in a handful of footballers under contract at other clubs, holding the rights through a company in the British Virgin Islands.

Those investments in players at other clubs have been uncovered by an investigation, with a leak of documents called the FinCEN Files, seen by BBC Panorama.

It has prompted former FA chairman Lord Triesman to question how ‘proper’ it was for an owner of a club to hold interest in other players.

Third party ownership of football players was outlawed in the Premier League in 2008, following on from the controversy surrounding Carlos Tevez and his time at West Ham. But the practice was still permitted internationally until as recent as 2015.

As such, a spokeswoman for Abramovich insisted to the BBC that no rules were broken and that all transactions related to a period of time before FIFA regulations on the matter changed.

The example that has been focussed on is that of winger Andre Carrillo. He later went on to play for Watford in the Premier League, but it appears that an off-shore company Abramovich was behind earlier held some of the rights to the Peru international.

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Andre Carrillo played against Chelsea for Sporting CP when an Abramovich company owned 50% of his economic rights | Clive Mason/Getty Images

That is viewed as especially iffy given that Chelsea played a Sporting CP side that included Carrillo in the Champions League home and away in 2014, which meant Abramovich would have had an interest in 12 players on the pitch on those particular occasions.

The specific company, Leiston Holdings, is reported to have owned 50% of Carrillo’s economic rights when they loaned Sporting €1m to help purchase the player from Alianza Lima. Accounts later show Sporting owed Leiston €2.6m in the 2014/15 season as per terms of their arrangements.

Gael Etock and Valentin Viola were two other Sporting players Leiston held stakes in.

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Former FA chairman Lord Triesman says he would have called for an investigation | Christopher Lee/Getty Images

“I don’t think it can possibly be proper for the owner of a football club to own players in other football clubs. That is precisely why third-party ownership is banned,” Lord Triesman commented on the issue to the BBC.

“It casts suspicion and a shadow right across football. On the documents I’ve seen I would’ve wanted, as chairman of the FA, to investigate them.”

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