Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich hands over stewardship of club

26 February 2022, 19:03 | Updated: 26 February 2022, 21:29

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has said he is giving trustees of the club&squot;s charitable foundation "the stewardship and care of Chelsea".
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has said he is giving trustees of the club's charitable foundation "the stewardship and care of Chelsea". Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Roman Abramovich has relinquished control of Chelsea football club after the British government threatened to sanction more oligarchs following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian billionaire, who took over at Stamford Bridge in 2003, said the trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation were in "the best position" to look after the club's interests as he handed over his stewardship.

Abramovich will remain as Chelsea owner, but will not be involved in any decision-making at the Premier League club.

It's understood Abramovich took the decision in order to protect Chelsea from continual links to the wider situation amid the conflict in Ukraine.

In a statement released on the Blues' official website, Abramovich said: "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.

"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."

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Chelsea's senior leadership set-up will not change, it is understood.

Abramovich's step backwards will not have any bearing on any possible UK government sanctions, but was a decision taken solely in Chelsea's interests.

The move comes days after Labour MP Chris Bryant urged the government to seize or freeze the tycoon's assets.

He claimed in the House of Commons on Thursday that the UK government should seize Abramovich's assets and remove the 55-year-old from Chelsea's ownership.

It emerged that Abramovich had been named as a person of interest in 2019 because of links to the Russian state and "public association with corrupt activity and practices".

In a statement, the Chelsea Supporters' Trust said it was "seeking urgent clarification" on the implications of Abramovich's statement.

"The Chelsea Supporters' Trust is deeply saddened and shocked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent loss of life," the statement read.

"We note Mr Abramovich's statement (26.2.22) and are seeking urgent clarification on what this statement means for the running of Chelsea FC.

"The CST board are ready to work with the trustees of The Chelsea Foundation in order to ensure the long-term interest of the club and supporters.

"We stand with the people of Ukraine."

The decision comes as Britain said it will lobby for Russia to be kicked out of the football World Cup and will ban its sports teams from competing in the UK.