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Chelsea not for sale, but Abramovich no longer running the club, officially

Some clarification on Roman Abramovich’s statement today

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Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Facing potential sanctions and certainly plenty of political pressure and negative press due to his supposed connections (past and maybe present) with Vladimir Putin, Roman Abramovich has made the proactive move today to relinquish “stewardship and care” of Chelsea Football Club, and hand control over to trustees of the Chelsea Foundation — technically a separate company.

Some of the trustees are also employees of Chelsea, including chairman Bruce Buck, director of finance Paul Ramos and Chelsea FCW manager Emma Hayes, but some are not. Piara Power is a former director of Kick It Out and now the executive director of FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe). John Devine is a sports lawyer and actively involved in various player unions and organizations, including The Chelsea Players’ Trust. And Sir Hugh Robertson is the former Minister of Sport in Parliament (2010-2013) and chairman of the British Olympic Association since 2016.

So what does this all mean?

Abramovich’s statement was brief and lacking specific detail, though it did carry an air finality in some of its phrasing.

Matt Law’s report in the Telegraph, with information provided by sources at the club, sheds some necessary light on things — though obviously only as much light as they’re willing to shine.

Here are the main takeaways:

  • Abramovich is still “the owner” of the club (via the Fordstam Ltd holding company) and can “invest” in it (barring any relevant sanctions)
  • Abramovich no longer controls the “running and decision making” of the club as it pertains to business and operations
  • “Football decisions” are now completely the responsibility of director Marina Granovskaia and technical director advisor Petr Čech
  • Chelsea are NOT for sale (though our “resolve” is expected to be tested)
  • There is no timescale for how long we may stay like this, or what may happen next and when

Chelsea “insist” the the move was not made to protect Abramovich from any sanctions, which it doesn’t, but instead is an attempt to “protect the club at a time when it was in danger of suffering reputational and strategic damage” — which remains to be seen.

Should Abramovich face sanctions, Chelsea are probably a bit better placed now then yesterday, but we would still feel the impact and perhaps severely depending on what the exact sanctions would be. Today’s move may shift some perceptions, but that might take some time even if it also shifts the way we operate on a day-to-day and year-on-year basis.