Tickets and transfers: What Chelsea can and can’t do following under latest government licence

Chelsea have been given special dispensation to continue operating

Lawrence Ostlere
Thursday 24 March 2022 11:59 GMT
Roman Abramovich: Chelsea owner's record-breaking tenure in numbers

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government, placing the club’s future in limbo.

The Russian-Israeli billionaire has owned Chelsea since 2003, but he put the club up for sale amid the threat of being sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The government’s “oligarch taskforce” has set about targeting those with links to the Kremlin and has sanctioned Abramovich due to his ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, as well as his stake in the company Evraz PLC, which has been “potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks”.

The government’s sanction paper explained: “Abramovich is associated with a person who is/has been involved in destabilising Ukraine & undermining/threatening territorial integrity, sovereignty & independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom (he) has had close relationship for decades.”

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, added: “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine. Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”

What does this mean for Chelsea?

Abramovich’s UK assets have been frozen and the government will strive to ensure he cannot make any more money from the club.

Abramovich sanctioned

What it means for Chelsea

- limited tickets can be sold

- no players bought, sold or loaned

- no money recouped from merchandise sales

- reasonable expenses allowed for matches like travel, security and catering

- future TV revenues can only be spent on essential operating costs

Chelsea have been given special dispensation to continue operation due to the club’s important role in sport and society. Players and staff will continue to be paid, and the government has now allowed £30m to be released from Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam, to provide cash for the club to meet it costs. It equates to about a month’s wages.

The core principle of the licence is to deny access to revenue, beyond what Chelsea needs to operate on a day-to-day basis. The limitations apply to all aspects of the club including the women’s and youth teams.

The club can continue to spend money on travel to training and matches, up to £20,000 per game. The club’s merchandise shop will be closed but stadium catering can continue as well as the hire of security and stewarding, up to a total cost of £500,000 per fixture.

The club are obliged to keep records of any activity permitted under the licence with a value exceeding £5,000 for a minimum of six years.

Nadine Dorries, the secretary for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account.

“Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club and the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.

“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club.

“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.”

Can Abramovich still sell the club?

Abramovich has put the club for sale but he is not entitled to any of the proceeds. He is in the process of selling Chelsea after 19 years as owner, having been disqualified by the Premier League from running the club and being a director. The government has to provide a license to allow the sale to go through.

American merchant bank the Raine Group has been put in charge of the process to sell the club, and multiple bidders have come forwards.

What about transfers?

The government’s explanation of Chelsea’s licence says Chelsea can make “inter-club payments to discharge obligations which existed before 10 March 2022 under player loan/sale arrangements”.

Only previously agreed payments can be made and received, meaning Chelsea are effectively under a transfer ban and that no new signings can be made either by transfer or loan. At present, fresh contracts cannot be offered to players whose deals expire at the end of the season, like captain Cesar Azpilicueta and fellow defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

The licence expires on 31 May and the Treasury reserves the right to vary, revoke or suspend it at any time.

What about tickets for upcoming matches?

The British government will allow Chelsea to sell some tickets again after easing the terms of its sanctioning license, ensuring the Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid is not played at an empty Stamford Bridge while denying the west London club the ability to gain financially.

The reigning European and world champions had been banned from selling tickets after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the ongoing invasion on Ukraine.

The oligarch’s assets were frozen but the government has now allowed £30m to be released from Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam, to provide cash for the club to meet it costs. It equates to about a month’s wages.

The updated license allows the sale of tickets to all home for the visit of Madrid for the Champions League first leg. Chelsea cannot sell new tickets for home Premier League games to its fans — only existing season ticket holders can attend — but away fans can now buy tickets. Chelsea supporters will be able to purchase tickets for away games.

The Premier League said it would collect all ticket proceeds that, in agreement with Chelsea, “will be donated to charity to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine.”

The same agreement will see Chelsea fans now able to attend the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium against Crystal Palace next month.

The government moves also allows tickets to be sold for games involving the Chelsea women’s team again.

“I would like to thank fans for their patience while we have engaged with the football authorities to make this possible,” British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said. “Since Roman Abramovich was added to the UK’s sanctions list for his links to Vladimir Putin we have worked extensively to ensure the club can continue to play football while ensuring the sanctions regime continues to be enforced.”

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