The Russian owner said he had passed on the ‘stewardship and care’ of the club.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has addressed the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League giants amid increasing pressure on Russians involved in sport following the invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement two days after a UK Member of Parliament suggested Abramovich should be barred from owning Chelsea, the businessman, who has always strenuously denied that he has done anything to merit sanctions, focused on the control of the club.
“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,” said Abramovich, who has earned praise for initiatives including opening the club’s Stamford Bridge home to members of the UK National Health Service at the height of the Covid pandemic.
“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values.
Statement from Club Owner Roman Abramovich.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 26, 2022
“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.”
Labour politician Chris Bryant, who criticized Abramovich in the UK House of Commons, responded within minutes to call on the billionaire to “condemn the illegal invasion.”
Abramovich has transformed Chelsea since buying the club in 2003, turning the Blues from also-rans to frequent Premier League champions.
The latest high point in a reign that has been hugely popular with fans came in May 2021, when the coach Abramovich appointed at the start of the year, Thomas Tuchel, celebrated on the pitch with the 55-year-old after winning the Champions League – the most prestigious trophy in European club competition.
Tuchel said he was “aware of all these discussions” when he was asked on Thursday about reports that Russian businesspeople are being targeted by the west as part of sanctions aimed at ending the invasion of Ukraine.
“We are aware of it and it’s distracting us, it’s worrying us,” admitted the German.
“To a certain degree I can understand the opinions and the critical opinions towards the club, towards us who represent that club. I can understand that and we cannot fully free ourselves from it.
“At the moment we don’t feel responsible for all this. We feel that it is horrible and there can be no doubt about it.
“Let’s be a bit more patient and understand what the measurements will be and then we have to maybe deal with it.”
Abramovich withdrew his application for a new UK investor visa in 2018 but has visited the UK using his Israeli passport since then, including attending Chelsea matches.
“The situation in general, for me and for my staff and for everybody here at [training complex] Cobham, for the players, is horrible,” said Tuchel ahead of his side’s Carabao Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. “Nobody expected this.
“It’s pretty unreal, it’s clouding our minds, it’s clouding excitement towards the final and it brings huge uncertainty.
“Still, there are so many uncertainties around the situation of our club and of the situation in the UK with scenarios like this that it makes no sense if I comment on it.
“We are aware of it, we have not so much inside information as you think and in the very end, and don’t understand me wrong, I think it’s also derived from the team and from the staff, and I include myself, to be maybe not political. To do sports and to focus on sports.”