Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich suddenly handed over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to its charitable foundation trustees Saturday.
The move came after a member of the British Parliament called for the Russian billionaire to hand over the club in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, made no mention of the war in Ukraine in his statement and, significantly, is not relinquishing ownership of the club and can still provide funds, presuming he is not sanctioned by the U.K. government. Sources have told ESPN that Abramovich has no intention of calling in his loans to the club.
“During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities,” he said.
“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.
“I believe that currently, they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”
Roman Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003. Paul
Conflict in Ukraine entered a third day Saturday following Russia’s invasion of its neighbour country, drawing widespread condemnation and sanctions from world leaders.
Abramovich was not involved in the detailed day-to-day running of the club in any case, with that role performed by his close confidante and club director, Marina Granovskaia, in conjunction with technical and performance adviser Petr Cech.
He did, however, have the final say on key decisions, including player transfers and the future of respective head coaches, something he will now step back from, sources have told ESPN.
The foundation trustees are chairman Bruce Buck, Chelsea women’s head coach Emma Hayes, lawyer John Devine, executive director of anti-discrimination group FARE Piara Powar, Chelsea director of finance Paul Ramos, vice-chair of the British Olympic Association Sir Hugh Robertson and Sebastien Coe, former Olympic gold medalist and president of World Athletics.
Sources have told ESPN that Abramovich is not looking to sell Chelsea at this stage and rejected the assertion that the move is designed to evade possible sanctions, with Labour MP Chris Bryant among those openly questioning whether Abramovich should have his assets seized.
Chelsea has won five Premier League titles since Abramovich’s arrival as well as two Champions League trophies, in 2012 and 2021. The club has also won five FA Cups during that time.