Roman Abramovich stepping away from control of Chelsea but remains owner; Chelsea trustees want more information about whether running the club would be compatible with UK charity law; Abramovich's position has been under scrutiny since Russia invaded Ukraine
Tuesday 1 March 2022 11:04, UK
The Chelsea Foundation has reported a "serious incident" to the Charity Commission before its trustees agree to take over "custody and care" of the club as requested by owner Roman Abramovich.
Russian billionaire Abramovich issued a 110-word statement on Saturday following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which did not mention either country, announcing he would be stepping away from control of Chelsea but would remain owner.
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."
A "serious incident" is defined by the Charity Commission as anything that represents harm to the charity's beneficiaries, staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with the charity through its work, loss of the charity's money or assets, damage to the charity's property, or harm to the charity's work or reputation.
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."
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."
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.
Bur 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.
Bruce Buck - Chelsea's current chairman since 2004, Bruce Buck was appointed as a trustee of the Chelsea Foundation in 2010. Buck is also a former managing partner for US-based law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, where he worked across mergers, acquisitions and capital market transactions.
John Devine - Devine has been a trustee of the Chelsea Foundation since 2010. Devine works across the sports sector as part of his role as a partner and head of the sports team at Newcastle-based law firm Muckle LLP. Additionally, Devine assists the PFA on the establishment of charitable organisations by individual players.
Emma Hayes - Having managed Chelsea Women since 2012, Emma Hayes was appointed as a trustee of the Chelsea Foundation in 2017. Hayes has led Chelsea to numerous trophies, including four WSL titles after having previously served as assistant manager at Arsenal from 2006 - 2008 and as manager of Chicago Red Stars from 2008 - 2010.
Piara Powar - Appointed as a trustee of the Chelsea Foundation in 2011, Piara Powar is the current executive director of anti-discrimination and social inclusion network, Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). Prior to this, Powar served as a director at Kick It Out from 2000 - 2010.
Paul Ramos - Ramos has been associated with Chelsea since 2001 and became a trustee of the Chelsea Foundation in 2017. In his time at the club, Ramos has served as Chelsea's head of finance and took on the role of director of finance in 2018.
Sir Hugh Robertson - Robertson joined the Chelsea Foundation Board of Trustees in 2015. Robertson has been the chair of the British Olympic Association since 2016 and previously served as the Minister for Sport. Earlier in his career, Robertson worked for seven years at Schroder Investment Management.
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 from Ken Bates for a reported fee of £140m. In the 19 years since he has spent more than £1billion, won 19 major trophies and sacked 11 managers.
In that time, Chelsea have won:
And he has worked with 13 different managers:
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