Before deciding to take “custody and care” of the club as owner Roman Abramovich desired, the Chelsea Foundation reported a “serious incident” to the Charity Commission.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian billionaire Abramovich said on Saturday that he will relinquish management of Chelsea while continuing to be the club’s owner in a 110-word statement that made no mention of either nation.
However, the six trustees want more information about whether running the club would be compatible with UK charity law and raised their concerns at a meeting on Sunday.
The foundation’s lawyers are now working to see whether what Abramovich is proposing can actually be put into effect.
The trustees would need to be totally comfortable from a legal point of view before they assume “control” of the club while Abramovich remains owner.
A statement issued by the Charity Commission on Monday said: “We have contacted the charity, seeking information and, in line with our guidance, the charity has also made a report to the commission. We cannot comment further at this time.”
The Charity Commission defines a “serious incident” as anything that causes harm to a charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, or other people who come into contact with the charity through its work, loss of the charity’s funds or assets, property damage, or harm to the work or reputation of the charity.
Abramovich’s statement on Saturday was heavily criticised before Chelsea then released a second, shorter statement 14 hours later on Sunday morning, saying: “The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.”
A lot of Chelsea fans will want to know if he’s still going to be putting money in. I believe he will continue to back the club, but that of course could change if the UK Government announce he is being sanctioned but they haven’t done that so far.Chief Reporter Kaveh Solhekol
Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville both criticised the statements from Abramovich and Chelsea, questioning whether Abramovich’s handing over of stewardship and care falls short of handing over ownership.
“They should have been a lot stronger in what they said, and regarding Roman Abramovich passing on to Chelsea trustees, that’s not him relinquishing the club, stewardship is not ownership,” said Carragher.
“It’s completely different because he’s still in charge, he’s still running it, which is fine. But to not actually mention in his initial statement what was going on in Ukraine, I thought was really poor.”
Neville described Abramovich’s statement as “meaningless”, saying: “It doesn’t have any strength behind it and the only question we want Roman Abramovich to answer, if he is going to speak, is ‘does he condemn the war or does he support the war on Ukraine?’
“I was surprised at Roman Abramovich, one of things he’s done well over that 20 years or so is not say anything. At the time when he has said something I think it’s left more questions than answers.”
Neville added: “I would have preferred Roman Abramovich to come out and say ‘I’m a Russian national, I own Chelsea Football Club and I will continue to own Chelsea Football club’.
“Chelsea charity trustees are not running the football club – executives and directors will be under the guidance of Roman Abramovich. So I don’t know why he thought, or those close to him thought it was going to wash. What he has done is try to use the charity as a shield, which I don’t think is impressive as a leader.”
Chelsea not for sale but who will run the club?
Abramovich has invested over £1billion into the Stamford Bridge club since purchasing it in 2003 and will not be asking the club to repay the loans it owes him – meaning the long-term future of the club remains secure.
It is also understood that Abramovich remains adamant that Chelsea is not for sale.
But there are now questions about his long-term future at the club.
Whether Abramovich will ever return to taking a more visible hands-on role at the club will likely depend strongly on whether he faces any sanctions, and what happens in Ukraine and the UK’s relationship with Russia.
“A lot of Chelsea fans will want to know if he’s still going to be putting money in,” chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol told Sky Sports News. “I believe he will continue to back the club, but that of course could change if the UK Government announce he is being sanctioned but they haven’t done that so far.”
There have been calls from MPs this week that Russian-born Abramovich should not be allowed to own Chelsea due to his alleged links to Vladimir Putin’s regime.
After Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on Thursday, Labour MP Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that the Russian-Israeli billionaire should have his assets seized, questioned whether he should be allowed to operate a football club himself, and quoted a leaked government document suggesting he should not be allowed to be based in the UK.
It is understood Abramovich will no longer be involved in club matters on a day-to-day basis and all long-term strategic decision-making powers are being handed over to the Chelsea Foundation.
The Chelsea Foundation’s trustees are Bruce Buck, John Devine, Emma Hayes, Piara Powar, and Hugh Robertson.
For transfers, executive director Marina Granovskaia, technical advisor Petr Cech and head coach Thomas Tuchel will continue to operate within the budgets set by the club.
“As far as football matters are concerned, nothing changes,” reported Solhekol.