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Foundation from Chelsea sale ‘could be game-changing’ for humanitarian aid, unless politics get in the way, warns director

Former UNICEF director Mike Penrose leading the effort

ICC Champions Dinner Photo by Eamonn McCormack-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

Former UNICEF UK executive director Mike Penrose has revealed that he’s the one who’s been tasked by Chelsea to head up the (independent) charitable foundation that’s meant to take the net proceeds from the sale of the club and turn it into aid for “the victims of conflict”.

“I was contacted by (Chelsea chairman) Bruce Buck and given a very clear brief to set up a foundation for the victims of 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. That firm and me would have to validate any money being spent.”

Penrose, currently on assignment in Eastern Ukraine for another charity, believes that this foundation could be game-changing thanks to the expected total of about £2.5b seed money (i.e. the £1b paid up front by Boehly-Clearlake, plus the £1.5b “debt” once that’s resolved) — unless politics get in the way. And that’s a pretty big if unfortunately, with politics constantly trying to get in the way already for their petty aims.

But Penrose has already submitted a scoping document outlining his plans for this foundation, their methods of ensuring independence from Chelsea, and their continued safeguarding of the funds away from any future claims or changes of heart from Roman Abramovich.

“The only thing between this becoming a reality and now, is politics. 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.

“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. 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.

“I’d like to say I was confident, but I’m 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.”

Much like with the sale of the club, getting such a foundation off the ground would of course take time, even if everyone involved had the most altruistic intentions. But Penrose believes he can get things moving quickly having already started to lay the groundwork.

He’s hoping that the politicians can indeed be as magnanimous as Abramovich himself has been with regards to Chelsea Football Club.

“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.”

“This foundation could change the face of humanitarian aid. It would be the world’s biggest humanitarian or conflict-affected charity. [So] this wouldn’t just have impact today or tomorrow — this could have impact for decades. This could be game-changing. [But] the longer politics are played, the longer the suffering in Ukraine.

“If the Government chooses to do this, it could be enormous. [...] If they give us the green light in the next few days, we can have the foundation set up in a couple of months and have money on the ground in hours or days after that.”

-Mike Penrose; source: PA Sport via Yahoo!

The ball appears to be in the UK Government’s court. May all the higher powers help us all.