Chelsea’s Champions League match in Lille tomorrow is ‘at real risk’ of being called off, according to figures in France, after Roman Abramovich was added to the European Union’s sanction ‘black list’.
In the UK, the Blues have been able to continue operating after being handed a licence by the government, despite Abramovich coming under the spotlight for his ties with Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.
This acts as an exemption, allowing them to go about their sporting business as usual, but there are claims that the club may need a similar licence to be able to play their game – and generate income – on French soil.
L’Equipe have reported that this documentation is ‘necessary’ for Chelsea, who are still owned, de facto, by Abramovich. The same outlet, however, claims the decision may be granted by the authorities out of respect for ‘sporting fairness’.
The ‘black list’ named by the EU today features a number of new Russian oligarch. They said it was decided to ‘impose a fourth set of economic and individual sanctions in view of [this] military aggression’, namely the bloodshed in Ukraine.
Stakeholders at Chelsea, UEFA and the Council of the EU are believed to have been informed about the risk and consequences stemming from the new sanctions.
On the uncertain situation, a source told L’Equipe: ‘If there is no exception listed in the texts… concerning these sanctions, I think that there is a real risk for the holding of the match in Lille and the players who participate in this meeting.’
Abramovich being added to the EU’s sanction list will see him subjected to a travel ban and also freeze his assets. He is being targeted for his ‘privileged access’ to Putin, with whom he retains ‘very good relations’, a draft document says.
The same document claims that Abramovich benefitted from these ties financially, helping him become ‘one of the leading Russian businesspersons’ in industries which offered a ‘substantial source of revenue’ to the Russian government.
‘These sanctions will further contribute to ramping up economic pressure on the Kremlin and cripple its ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine,’ the European Commission said, before saying the restrictions have been co-ordinated with allies.
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As it stands, UEFA are ‘confident’ that the last-16 second leg tie will go ahead as planned – and as a result, Chelsea will look to minimise disruption travelling to Lille after the government set out budgets for their away trips.
Part of the clampdown, the travel cap currently stands at £20,000, a figure which has thrown their plans into chaos.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, however, has insisted that whatever happens, he and his players will be at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium tomorrow.
Speaking after his side’s win against Newcastle, he said: ‘My last information is we have a plane. We can go by plane and go back by plane. If not we go by train. And if not we go by bus. And if not I’ll drive a seven-seater!
‘If you asked me 20 years, 30 years ago if I’d join a Champions League match at the sideline and what I’m willing to do, I’d say ‘where do I have to be and when?’ ‘We will be there.
‘Of course organisation-wise there are some negotiations but we have brilliant guys who organise the travels and in every department there are such committed people so things in the moment feel quite normal.’