Potential buyers for Chelsea told to approach UK government

Anyone interested in buying Chelsea Football Club can make a proposal to the British government, a minister said on Friday, after London sanctioned owner Roman Abramovich and halted his planned sale of the Premier League side.

“As the license conditions are written today, the sale would not be allowed,” Britain’s technology minister Chris Philp told Sky News.

“However, if a buyer emerged it would be open to that buyer or to that football club to approach the government and ask for the conditions to be varied in a way that allows that sale to take place.”

British property developer Nick Candy remains interested in making a bid, a spokesperson said in a statement, and was examining the details of Thursday’s sanctions announcement

The government, which has been under pressure to ramp up sanctions on Russian oligarchs after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine late last month, imposed a travel ban and froze Abramovich’s assets on Thursday.

The announcement brought to a halt his recently announced plans to sell the West London football club, which he had expected to fetch more than three billion pounds ($3.9 billion).  The club is now effectively controlled by the British government and permitted to operate under strict conditions which prevent transfer deals and new ticket sales and even forced the club merchandise store to close.

In a statement on Thursday, Chelsea said it would seek changes to the licence under which it must now operate to allow the club to continue as normal as possible.

“If the club feels that those licence conditions need to be changed in order to safeguard jobs, then … at any time they can come and talk to the government about varying those licence conditions,” Philp told ITV in a later interview.

“The red line for the government is making sure that no financial benefit ends up in the hands of Abramovich.”

Separately, London-listed Russian steelmaker Evraz in which Abramovich is the largest shareholder with a 28.6% stake according to Refinitiv Eikon, said on Friday that 10 of its 11 board members had quit.

While Chelsea’s main shirt sponsor, mobile network Three, is looking to cut ties, another sponsor Trivago said they were looking forward to the change in ownership as soon as possible.

“The uncertainty over the current ownership situation of Chelsea FC has been challenging. Moving forward, it is important to us to continue supporting the club,” the internet hotel search firm said in a statement.

“We are looking forward to a transition of ownership as soon as possible and want to support the club in this process. We will provide any update to our business relationship if and when appropriate.”

Three said on Thursday it had asked the club to remove its logo and was suspending its relationship, while shirt sleeve sponsor Hyundai Motor said it was considering its next move.

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