Charity regulator looks into Abramovich's plan for Chelsea

Roman Abramovich’s attempt to shift the “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the Premier League club’s foundation has sparked the trustees to report the move to the British body overseeing charities

ByROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer Writer
March 01, 2022, 4:21 PM
FILE - Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his box before their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Dec. 19, 2015. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022 s
FILE - Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his box before their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Dec. 19, 2015. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022 suddenly handed over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to its charitable foundation trustees. The move came after a member of the British parliament called for the Russian billionaire to hand over the club in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
The Associated Press

LONDON -- Roman Abramovich's attempt to shift the “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the Premier League club's foundation has sparked the trustees to report the move to the British body overseeing charities.

The unexpected announcement from the Chelsea owner, which lacked full clarity, was issued on Saturday following calls for him to be targeted by British sanctions regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to sell the club.

The Charity Commission, which regulates the Chelsea Foundation, has received a “serious incident report” from its trustees amid concerns about how Abramovich's plan can be enacted.

The foundation's chairman is Bruce Buck, who has also chaired Chelsea for most of the 19 years the Russian oligarch has owned the west London club. Beyond women's team manager Emma Hayes and director of finance Paul Ramos, the trustees with more separation from the club are British Olympic Association chairman Hugh Robertson, lawyer John Devine and anti-discrimination leader Piara Powar, the executive director of the FARE network.

The Charity Commission is seeking further information from them about the running of the club and the foundation.

“We have contacted the charity seeking information," the commission said, “and, in line with our guidance, the charity has also made a report to the commission.”

Chris Bryant, a legislator in Britain's opposition Labour Party, has been urging Abramovich to sell Chelsea over the last week. Bryant accused Abramovich in the House of Commons last week of having “links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices."

In a fresh intervention on Abramovich on Tuesday, Bryant told Parliament: "I think he’s terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he’s already going to sell his home tomorrow, and sell another flat as well. My anxiety is that we are taking too long about these things.”

Bryant also raised concerns about another Premier League club, Everton, which had funding via sponsorship from a company owned by Alisher Usmanov, the Russian metals tycoon who has been sanctioned by the European Union.

“Everton should certainly be cutting ties with him already,” Bryant said.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel responded by saying that broadly “there is a lot of detailed work taking place on sanctions.”

Abramovich has provided no indication that he is going to sell Chelsea, nor what exactly it means to be giving “stewardship and care” of the club to trustees who he said are "in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”

The trustees have not publicly accepted Abramovich's plan. Chelsea itself has also issued no comment, beyond remarks from manager Thomas Tuchel that indicated little difference to the running of the club led by director Marina Granovskaia, a long-standing associate of Abramovich, and technical director Petr Cech, the former goalkeeper.

“We try to be calm here, we are calm in the center of a storm, of some noise around us that we cannot control and we are not responsible for," Tuchel said during a heated news conference. “For me as a coach and in charge of the first team that decision (by Abramovich) does not change too much the daily business."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was challenged on Tuesday during a visit to Poland about Abramovich.

“You are talking about more sanctions prime minister," said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, a Ukrainian civil society organization, "but Roman Abramovich is not sanctioned, he’s in London, his children are not in the bombardments, his children are there in London.”

There was no specific response by Johnson.

Abramovich has yet to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the invasion of Ukraine.

“Every right thinking person should denounce what Putin has done,” British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said when asked about Abramovich.

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