What happened with Roman Abramovich?
In March 2022, Roman Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea Football Club. The oligarch was sanctioned by the UK Government over suspicions regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The club was allowed to operate under a “special licence,” warranted by the Government, but the fans and the club still suffered as the future of Chelsea became uncertain.
Abramovich put the club up for sale almost instantly following his sanctions, after all his assets were frozen. With this, the businessman wrote off Chelsea’s £1.5 billion loan that he had given the club out of his own pocket. It was the sum of money that had amassed since he first took over the club back in 2003.
Since the Russian took over the club 19 years ago, Chelsea have gone on to win 19 major trophies, and have become the most successful club in England over the past 2 decades. The club was left by Abramovich into the “stewardship and care,” of Chelsea’s foundation trustees as it was put up for sale. Chelsea was one of the very few clubs in the Premier League that were owned singularly by 1 person, however, this is no more, as the club enters a new chapter.
What happened next?
The sale of Chelsea was not quiet, and it certainly did not happen without a few controversies along the way. Shortly after it was announced the club had to be put on the market, it was revealed that Abramovich would not receive any of the money from the sale. The club was plunged into jeopardy for a while, as the future for Chelsea started to look very different. Massive questions were raised over how Chelsea were going to remain a powerhouse within football, without their Russian owner, after installing themselves as one of Europe’s best over the past 19 years.
The club suffered significantly at the hands of the UK Government as they were hit with many different sanctions. Chelsea received a transfer ban and were also barred from negotiating any form of contracts with the current staff at the football club. This resulted in the loss of defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, who both left the club when their contracts came to an end this year, as Chelsea were not permitted to negotiate new terms with the players, to allow them to stay. Not only this, but the fans also experienced hardship, as ticket sales were also banned. Season ticket holders were permitted to go to Stamford Bridge, and away games. However, any membership holders or members of the public could not simply buy a ticket to a game and attend. It was not allowed, as the Government were apparently unable to set up a relief fund for the ticket sales to go into.
Therefore, Stamford Bridge operated at a capacity of around 28,000 for the rest of the season as opposed to the 40,000 fans that fill the stadium each week. The club store was closed indefinitely, and it even reached a stage when fans were not allowed to attend free events that had been planned. Chelsea legend Peter Bonetti sadly passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in his honour, a free memorial had been planned for him by fans and staff at the club, 2 years on from his death. However, sanctions from the Government even meant that such occasions were not permitted. The club was in a very bleak period.
Not only this, but there was an increasing concern from fans and social media about the people who wanted to buy Chelsea. Controversial American Sports owners “The Ricketts Family,” launched a substantial bid to purchase the club. Stories surfaced online that the family apparently had a history. News articles surfaced with evidence of the Americans supposedly being “racist and Islamophobic,” which caused major discomfort amongst the fans of English football. Despite this, the Ricketts family reached the final stages of the sale before a social media outburst and protest from fans set the motion back.
A new era: Todd Boehly and co.
The Ricketts Family and British entrepreneur Sir Jim Ratcliffe both entered the final stages of the auction, as did an American consortium, headed by businessman and sports owner Todd Boehly. Boehly’s team of financial backers was compromised by investment firm Clearlake Capital. Todd Boehly, Mark Walter, Clearlake Capital and Hansjoerg Wyss’ bid was the one that was eventually accepted and passed by the UK Government. “Boehly & Co,” were the new owners of Chelsea Football Club. The club was purchased for a world record fee of £2.5 billion. This has made Chelsea the most expensive sporting team in history. Alongside the substantial fee for the club, the group have also pledged another £1.75 billion in investments.
Ultimately, the club’s change in owners resulted in the departures of the staff that were at the top of the tree. Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck stepped down from his role, as did Director Marina Granovskaia. Highly influential figure and club legend Petr Cech also left his role as Technical Advisor, a role in which head coach Thomas Tuchel has praised him highly for. Todd Boehly to his credit, jumped straight in at the deep end and quickly assumed the role as the club’s Chairman. As well as this, he has also taken on the job as Chelsea’s Interim Sporting Director, until the right figure is appointed.
Todd Boehly is no stranger to the sporting world, as he is the part owner of the Los Angeles Sparks, as well as being a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, alongside fellow Chelsea investor Mark Walter. So far, Chelsea fans cannot fault Boehly and his approach to owning the club. He has stepped into his role whole heartedly and has made it no secret that he plans to be at the epicentre of the club’s business. The American has been flying across Europe to attend negotiations involving players, ensuring that he becomes a familiar face in the footballing world.
The consortium has already heavily invested in the Men’s First Team and the academy, and they have also pledged a section of wealth to the Women’s team. The business done at Chelsea thus far has been smart, and the Blues look like they are yet to be finished in the transfer window. Boehly also looks very keen to extend manager Thomas Tuchel’s contract, as Chelsea look to step away from the manager's merry-go-round strategy and build a long-term plan for the club.
It remains to be seen as what Chelsea’s future will look like. But so far, so good. It looks different, but it looks positive for the fans of Chelsea Football Club.