Insights Government grants Chelsea Football Club licence to continue operating following the sanctioning of owner Roman Abramovich


The Government says that the licence will allow the club to run certain football-related activities, meaning that its fixtures will be fulfilled, its staff and the running costs of its ground can be paid, and existing ticket holders for Chelsea games can attend matches. The licence is a safety net to protect the sport, the Premier League, the wider football pyramid down to the grassroots game, loyal fans and other clubs. The Government says it will deprive Mr Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club and means he cannot circumvent UK sanctions.

The Government will keep the licence under constant review and work closely with the relevant football authorities and the club to protect it from irreparable damage that would prevent it from competing.

The Government has frozen Mr Abramovich’s assets as part of a raft of further sanctions against individuals linked to the Russian regime. Freezing his assets means he cannot benefit from his ownership and make any money from Chelsea.

The Treasury issued the licence through the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI). The licence was not discussed with those impacted before a designation was made. OFSI is responsible for enforcing the conditions of the licence and it is a criminal offence to fail to comply with its requirements.

As well as allowing costs for players and staff to travel to away fixtures, the licence permits the club to host scheduled fixtures at its home stadium, alongside other necessary activities, such as catering, security, maintenance of the club’s training grounds, and payment of rates and taxes.

The licence contains the following conditions:

  • sale of the club: while a sale of the club is not permitted at this time, the Government is open to a sale and would consider an application for a new licence to allow for a sale; proceeds from any sale will not go to Mr Abramovich while he is subject to sanctions;
  • transfers: under the current licence the transfer or loan of players in and out of the club is not permitted; this applies to all of Chelsea’s teams;
  • matchday tickets: fans who have already purchased a ticket for a future fixture or have a club season ticket can use their tickets or resell them within the boundaries of the law; no new or additional tickets can be purchased for either home or away matches;
  • matchday catering: the licence permits home ground hosting transactions, including stewarding, catering and security but none of the proceeds can go to Mr Abramovich;
  • merchandise: the club cannot undertake any new revenue raising activity, including selling merchandise; the club’s physical and online store cannot operate, but this does not apply to the sale of existing stock held by third parties, such as high street sports retailers; and
  • Champions League and FA Cup: the purpose of the licence is to allow the club to fulfil its upcoming fixtures; therefore, the licence allows footballing activity and travel so that the club can play its European fixtures and the FA Cup.

To read the Government’s announcement in full and for links to further information, click here.