Chelsea: Roman Abramovich’s sanctions means it cannot be ‘business as usual’ insists Sports Minister

Nigel Huddleston, the Sports Minister, insists it cannot be ‘business as usual’ at Chelsea after the club’s fans hit out at ongoing restrictions imposed in the wake of sanctions against Roman Abramovich.

The Chelsea Supporters Trust this week called on the government to ease the strict conditions that mean the club are not permitted to sell new tickets to supporters for home games.

According to CST, the measures ought to be amended ‘so as not to punish supporters’, while the group went on to hit out at Huddleston over a lack of dialogue.

The Sports Minister responded on Tuesday, saying: ‘We have had constant dialogue with Chelsea fans because the whole strategy throughout is to be very, very clear that Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned and that has clearly had implications.

‘I was very honest and open with the Chelsea fans, saying, “This will have an impact because he has been sanctioned and he is the owner of the club”.

‘We have tried to make reasonable modifications to the license to enable fans to engage with the club and continue as much as reasonably possible.

Sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (above) means it cannot be ‘business as usual’ at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea are not permitted to sell any new tickets to supporters for home Premier League matches

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston insisted he has had 'constant dialogue' with Blues supporters

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston insisted he has had ‘constant dialogue’ with Blues supporters

‘But the sanctions do mean we’ve got to be really careful of making sure there isn’t any incremental new revenue generation that was part of the sanctions.

‘We have moderated it where we can, but as it relates to home (Premier League) of course, that’s difficult.

‘I think there’s only about 4,000 tickets out of 40,000 home fans, so we’re not talking about huge volumes here.

I continue to work with the fans, but I was very clear from day one and it’s still the case – this is not business as usual. This is a different world because the club’s owner has been sanctioned. ‘

Huddleston added: ‘It is difficult because we’ve got to make sure that the sanctions conditions are adhered to the greatest extent possible.

Huddleston said only about 4,000 tickets out of 40,000 home fans were affected

Huddleston said only about 4,000 tickets out of 40,000 home fans were affected

‘The owner of the club has been sanctioned and there will obviously and inevitably be consequences of that and some temporary inconvenience for fans.

‘But in the whole scheme of things, if you look at what has been enabled, with the cup games and the away games and so on, actually we have literally tried to bend over backwards to help the fans.

‘There is always going to be some consequences that cause some inconvenience. I am sorry for the fans for that but you know, that’s part of being sanctioned – it is not business as usual. ‘

Meanwhile, one of the bidders for the club are reportedly unhappy about what they perceive as preferential treatment towards the rival Ricketts consortium. It follows the revelation that the Raine Group, the US bank leading the sale process, and Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck had facilitated a meeting between Tom Ricketts and Paul Canoville.

Canoville, Chelsea’s first black player, had called for the Ricketts proposal to be rejected over racist comments made by the head of the family, Joe.

The Raine Group has drawn up a shortlist of four preferred bid for the club, including the Ricketts family (pictured: Tom Ricketts)

The Raine Group has drawn up a shortlist of four preferred bid for the club, including the Ricketts family (pictured: Tom Ricketts)

Tom Ricketts, his son, subsequently met with Canoville, but it is the involvement of Buck in the arrangement of the meeting that has been queried by one of the rival bidders, according to The Times, citing rules that no contact should be made with the Chelsea executive during the sale process.

Sources say the request for Buck to assist came from Raines and that he played no active role in the meeting.

Chelsea are seeking a quick sale – one from which Abramovich must be unable to profit – and the process should be complete by the end of April.

‘Overall, any of us who are football fans, sports fans, we want Chelsea to survive and there is now a route for that to happen,’ Huddleston said.

‘We will play what role we can and – of course – the fans are always front and center of our thoughts.’

The CST had previously set out a number of expectations of the new owners, including a ‘golden share’, which would essentially give fans the right to exercise a veto over certain important decisions, as recommended by Tracey Crouch’s fan-led football review which also called for a new independent regulator to oversee the sport.

Huddleston confirmed the Government would be responding formally ‘pretty soon’ on the report and urged Chelsea’s preferred bidders to keep fans front and center in their future plans.

‘At the moment we have got a process to go through in terms of the fan-led review and obviously, if that also requires legislation, the timescales would probably not be in time for the Chelsea deal,’ he said.

‘But I would encourage any potential future owner (of Chelsea) to engage with fans and listen to what they have got to say in their recommendations.’

.

Leave a Comment