A statement released on behalf of Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich said he had passed on the “stewardship and care” of the club to the Chelsea Foundation.
Russian Abramovich, who bought Chelsea in 2003, made the decision after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The announcement was made on Chelsea’s official website less than 24 hours before Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Liverpool.
Abramovich’s statement read: “In my nearly 20 years as owner of Chelsea FC, I have always seen my role as a goalkeeper for the Club, whose job it is to ensure that we are as successful as possible today, as well as building for the future, while playing a positive role in our communities.
“I have always made decisions in the interest of the club. I remain committed to these values. That is why I entrust today to the trustees of the Chelsea Charitable Foundation the management and care of Chelsea FC.
“I think they are currently in the best position to defend the interests of the club, the players, the staff and the supporters.”
The trustees of the Chelsea Foundation whom Abramovich entrusted with this responsibility are Bruce Buck, John Devine, Emma Hayes, Piara Powar, Paul Ramos and Sir Hugh Robertson.
The decision came towards the end of the week in which Abramovich was nominated to the UK parliament by MP Chris Bryant.
Mr Bryant revealed that Abramovich was flagged as a person of interest by the UK Home Office three years ago due to alleged links to the Russian state.
“I got my hands on a leaked 2019 document, from the Ministry of the Interior, which says about Mr. Abramovich: ‘As part of HMG’s [Her Majesty’s government] Russia’s strategy to target illicit finance and malicious activity, Abramovich remains attractive to HMG because of his ties to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activities and practices,” Bryant told the House of Commons, as reported by The Guardian.
Bryant alleged Abramovich had previously admitted to paying for “political influence”, before suggesting the Russian should have some of his assets seized and should not be allowed to own Chelsea FC.
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On Friday night, The Times published quotes from a financial expert suggesting that Chelsea’s long-term future could be in jeopardy if Abramovich’s assets were seized or frozen, as he could order the club to repay £1.5billion pounds sterling he owes her.
Kieran Maguire, professor of football finance at the University of Liverpool, said: “If he feels he has been made a scapegoat for Putin’s activities, the worst-case scenario is that he tries to ask the loan.
“So we have a crisis. He and Putin could argue that it was the British government that destroyed Chelsea football club.
“There could be a lot of misrepresentation and accusations from all sides if the UK government takes this route.
“But I suspect this government won’t want to upset football fans because we have a populist government. I suspect Chelsea’s legal team would look at all options.”
However, Abramovich has no intention of recalling his loans to the club, nor has he put the club up for sale, according to Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol.
Solhekol, writing on Twitter after Abramovich’s statement was released, said the Russian’s motivation for ‘stepping back’ was to ‘protect Chelsea from the attention they are receiving’.
The Sky Sports reporter also said: “Nothing is going to change in terms of the day-to-day running of Chelsea.
“Only long-term strategic decision-making powers are transferred to the Chelsea Foundation. Everything else remains the same. Football matters, budgets etc. are unaffected.”