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Chelsea FC’s financial future is a mess after sanctions against Russian owner Roman Abramovich, with fears the club won’t afford to travel to games


Chelsea FC players disembark from a plane after arriving in Portugal for the 2021 Champions League final.Valerio Pennicino – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

  • World club soccer champion Chelsea is in turmoil after its Russian billionaire owner was sanctioned.

  • Sanctions on Roman Abramovich mean that the club’s finances are effectively frozen.

  • The UK government has said Chelsea can only spend $26,000 travelling to games.

Club soccer behemoth Chelsea FC was plunged into chaos last week when its Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich was slapped with sanctions by the UK government.

Abramovich, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced plans to sell the club following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the UK sanctions froze the oligarch’s assets, meaning he cannot profit from any sale.

With Abramovich’s assets frozen, Chelsea is effectively barred from spending or making money. Other restrictions announced by the UK government include Chelsea having to cease the sale of merchandise and close its club shop, the sale of tickets to games, and contract extensions for players and other staff.

The British government, however, included a number of provisions in the sanctions which it said will allow Chelsea to keep operating as a soccer team despite Abramovich’s assets being frozen.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is seen on the stand during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government last week.Getty/Clive Mason

Among those provisions was the announcement that Chelsea could spend only £20,000 ($26,000) per game on travel expenses.

Chelsea is allowed, the government said, to incur “reasonable costs of travel to and from Fixtures (or for the purposes of training or practice) by any of the Club teams for players and essential staff (including the reasonable cost of any travel company making such arrangements and necessary security staff or contractors) not exceeding the value of £20,000 per game per Club team.”

That figure has been widely derided as far too low, particularly given that Chelsea remains in the UEFA Champions League, the elite Europe-wide competition it won last season.

The London side travels to Lille, France, this week for a last-16 second leg game, and there are concerns that $26,000 won’t cover the costs of travel and accommodation for the club. This would in turn pose a headache for the logistics of getting to and from the game.

Elite soccer teams like Chelsea usually fly to games on privately chartered jets and stay in four- or five-star hotels with extensive catering and security, before traveling to games by bus. All of this is expensive, and almost certainly exceeds $26,000, even for a domestic away game, let alone a trip to Europe.

Hugo Scheckter, who previously worked in player care at Premier League clubs West Ham and Southampton, estimated that even for an away game in the UK, costs would conservatively be close to $40,000.

When asked over the weekend about possible travel issues, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said he believed the club would still have access to a plane for the trip to Lille later in the week.

“My last information is we are getting a plane. So we can go by plane and come back by plane. If not, we’ll go by train. If not, we’ll go by bus,” Tuchel said in his post-match press conference.

Tuchel went on to joke that if the team couldn’t afford a bus, he’d drive a seven-seater car to get to Lille.

Despite Tuchel’s comments, the status of Chelsea’s travel plans for Wednesday remains unclear. The club declined to comment when contacted by Insider.

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