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    When Football meets Politics – Chelsea braces up for the most “critical” week in the club’s 117 years history

    Sports Journalist Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah looks at the increasingly complex scenarios facing the English Football giants and the potential of the club going into administration if tough financial guidelines spelt out by the UK government are not met.

    It has been a torrid few days in March but Chelsea supporters the world over, believe that the football gods are still firmly on their side after a late Kai Havertz goal secured three points for them against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

    As sweet as this latest victory on the pitch might be, it does not shield the fact that Chelsea enter slippery and uncharted territory this week following the freezing of assets belonging to Russian multi billionaire Roman Abramovich.

    The already high stakes were further raised when the Premier League announced that Abramovich no longer qualifies as a Director of the club to even have a direct say as to who owns the assets in future.

    A catalogue of high profile sponsors, partners and associates have severred their ties with the Blues.

    The latest being Mobile Telecom shirt sponsor Three “3”, suspending it’s sponsorship of the club.

    Meaning removal of the distinct “3” logo from jerseys and the stands of Stamford Bridge until further notice.

    The setbacks for Chelsea may not halt anytime soon with another withdrawal by car manufacturers Hyundai further adding to the crushing financial squeeze on the European Champions.

    As expected, Chelsea supporters around the globe have been left frustrated by what they see as the spate of attacks on their beloved team.

    The fans are also angry at UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries who has stated that Chelsea cannot sell any new tickets to supporters except those already sold before 10th March which was indeed honoured on Sunday.

    Season ticket holders will still be allowed to attend matches and refreshments/snacks will continue be served at Stamford Bridge.

    It is unclear how this arrangement affects away supporters wanting to buy tickets for future games at Stamford Bridge.

    On Friday 11th March 2022, the UK government officially opened negotiations with legal and financial advisors of Roman Abramovich over the terms of the sale of Chelsea.

    It is no longer a secret that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Downing Street decision makers, are eager to push through the “transaction” as quickly as possible but at the same time threading with political caution not to destroy a giant sporting institution that resonates and breathes life into dreams far beyond football.

    Boasting over a century of rich history, Chelsea loyalists could never have imagined that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would spell potential doom for their flamboyant and successful team.

    When business man Gus Mears bought the Stamford Bridge Athletics complex on 10th March 1905, it was toasted with some drinks at the Rising Sun pub on Fulham Road. Mr Mears was looking to turn it into a local football ground, but not even in his wildest dreams could he have predicted that chelsea would become such a powerful global football institution.

    Chelsea are just three years away from celebrating 120 years of existence but face very tough and uncertain days of negotiations, lobbying, politics and legalities as the reality of sanctions imposed on seven russian oligarchs including abramovich hits the north london football establishment.

    The once almighty Roman empire is powerless to stop the sale of Chelsea,with bids now expected to be considered in the coming days.

    The magnitude and scale of crisis confronting the blues is not being taken for granted on the pitch by the man in charge of master-minding victories.

    As he granted the post match interview with Sky Sports on sunday following the win over newcastle, coach Thomas Tuchel managed to stop short of admitting that his players could not be blamed if they started entertaining or exploring potential escape routes out of Stamford Bridge.

    The truth of the matter is that should the financial clampdown suffocate the club as a result of the sanctions facing Abramovich, it could spell doom for the reigning European champions.

    “It is not easy at all. The club, the players and staff are still adjusting to this new situation”.

    The german joked about chelsea’s travel plans to France for their champions league second leg tie against Lille.

    “My last information is that we are getting a plane. So we can go by plane and come back by plane”.

    Turning the tone more seriously, he added that Chelsea’s situation remains complex.

    “The focus is on the first team, our players and me. But Chelsea is much more than just the first team. It is a massive club with huge tradition and there are hundreds of staff – it’s not just the players – and it’s important we show the spirit and give them the distraction.”

    Tuchel is spot on with his analysis of the crisis. It is not just the first team of combined billionaires that face an uncertain few days. The Chelsea Academy also braces up for Premier League clubs circling like hawks to swoop into their nest of highly-talented starlets.

    And yet the fans keep asking; So what exactly is the crime of Chelsea Football club ?

    Well the shocking answer is absolutely nothing.

    It is Roman Abramovich who continues to be targeted because he is a member of the powerful Russian oligarchy.

    Oligarch is derived from the ancient Greek word:(oligos) meaning ‘few’ and (archein) which is ‘rule’. So a member of an oligarchy is basically a person who is part of a small group, holding power in a state”.

    That is why the term oligarch has become so popular to commonly describe russian businessmen linked to President Putin and his “known associates” including of course Mr Abramovich himself aka Mr Chelsea.

    This explains the rapid and aggressive posture of the UK government in their efforts to isolate Putin and those around him by having their assets in the UK frozen.

    Blacklisted names have also been banned from travelling to the UK and significantly, no UK citizen or company may do business with them.

    Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared:

    “There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine”.

    The additional sanctions are the latest steps in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people.

    “We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies”.

    More than anything, the above statement is what underpins the drive to cut off any ties that may be linked to the kremlin directly or indirectly.

    Unfortunately for Chelsea fans; whether in London, Accra, New York, Johannesburg or Moscow, there can be no room for weak sentiments or loyalty based purely on emotions.

    There is an ongoing deadly war which witnessed Russia throwing the first punch and dropping the first bombs with a clear straight line drawn as to who the enemy is.

    The friends of Putin are being hunted down as mercilessly as the bombs that are being indiscriminately dropped on Ukraine.

    For Chelsea followers, praying for the best is permitted but they must also brace themselves for absolutely anything, including losing the current status of their darling club.

    Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah is Ghanaian Sports Journalist and currently the Head of iMax Media a leading Multimedia Organization based in the Ghanaian capital Accra.


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