Chelsea face the prospect of going out of business if the government decides to impose sanctions against owner Roman Abramovich, a leading financier has warned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under increasing pressure from ministers and leading parliamentary officials to seize or freeze Abramovich’s UK assets in response to Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine.
In 2019, Abramovich was named as a person of interest because of his “public association with corrupt activity and practices” in Russia, and it was confirmed earlier this week that prohibitive measures would be put in place to target Vladimir Putin’s ‘inner circle’.
However, Abramovich, who has close ties with Putin in the past, is yet to be sanctioned despite confirmation earlier this week that Russian banks and businesses would have their assets frozen.
Kieran Maguire, a football finance lecturer at Liverpool University, has now warned that Abramovich, who is owed a £1.5 billion loan by the club, could use the complicated nature of his Chelsea ownership to ward off any threat of government sanctions, which may put in jeopardy the future of the Blues long-term.
“If he feels he is being made a scapegoat for the activities of Putin then the worst-case scenario is he tries to call in the loan,” Maguire said via The Times. “Then we’ve got a crisis. He and Putin could argue that it is the British government that has destroyed Chelsea Football Club.”
Maguire added there may be “a lot of misrepresentation and accusations made from all parties if the British government does go down this route. But I suspect this government will not want to upset football fans as we have a populist government, I suspect Chelsea’s legal team would be going through all the options,”
His view is supported by Dr Rob Wilson, a finance lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, who added of the situation: “If the government do seize the assets, in which case they seize Chelsea, that is probably for him a bit of a final straw.
“He would likely try to walk away from the club…which would create a problem for Chelsea because it would have to be sold or go out of business. Who would buy Chelsea with a £2 billion loan?”
Prospective buyers are said to be monitoring proceedings at Chelsea, while head coach Thomas Tuchel has already admitted that the club – who are actually owned by Fordstam, a private company Abramovich set up when he took charge – face ‘many uncertainties’ should action be taken.
The German also conceded in a press conference that his players, who are preparing to face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, are ‘worrying’ about what’s going on and the conflict in Ukraine as a whole.