Chelsea fans have expressed mixed reactions after the club was barred from selling match tickets this morning.
Roman Abramovich, the Blues’ Russian owner, has been sanctioned by the UK government in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in spite of the billionaire’s plans to sell the west London club.
Chelsea Football Club has been frozen as an asset, and although the club has been given a special licence to remain operational, only season ticket-holders and those who had purchased match tickets before today can now attend games.
David Johnstone, editor of Chelsea fanzine cfcuk, said: “I’m devastated for Chelsea Football Club, I’m devastated for all the staff that work there, and I’m devastated for Abramovich on a personal level.
“It pales into insignificance compared to what’s happening in Ukraine, it’s nothing, football, It just doesn’t matter.
“But it’s not fair for them, It’s punishing people who have got absolutely nothing at all to do with anything that’s going on in Ukraine.
“They’re just being punished because they support a football club. With the sanctions, it’s ordinary people that are going to suffer.”
Abramovich is alleged to have close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which he has denied.
The government says Abramovich, who has an estimated net worth of £9.4bn, is “one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Putin”.
There has been growing pressure on the UK government to sanction Chelsea and last week Abramovich announced that he intended to sell the club he has owned since 2003.
However, Chelsea remains an asset of Abramovich and their fans will have restricted access to games as a result.
The business can still operate under the special licence, with fixtures going ahead and staff still being paid.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the licence will run until 31 May.
Tara Thapa, chairman of the Hounslow Official Chelsea Supporters’ Club, said: “We are not directly involved. We have every right to watch the match.
“Football and all sports need to be separated from the politics.”
However, other Chelsea fans have been more accepting of the sanctions.
Dan Silver, a board member of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, said: “The supporters have been massively punished, but it is churlish to moan about not being able to go to a stadium.
“These sanctions aren’t aimed at Chelsea, they are aimed at Abramovich, and Chelsea are collateral damage because he owns the club.
“It’s frustrating for supporters not being able to watch the club, there are so many things that make Chelsea a happy place from a mental health perspective and meeting your mates.
“But the bigger picture is there are people dying in Ukraine.”
During Abramovich’s 19-year tenure, Chelsea have been transformed from a middling Premier League side to one of the most recognisable names in club football.
He has invested heavily in the side, including a £1.5bn loan that he does not want to be repaid as part of the sale.
His funds have helped Chelsea win every major trophy under his watch, the latest being the FIFA Club World Cup in February, while the women’s side is among the best in Europe.
The club’s shirt sponsor, telecommunications company Three, has requested that the Blues “temporarily suspend” its £40m deal with the club.