Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government ©Getty Images

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom Government in its latest sanctioning of Russian oligarchs in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, placing his attempts to sell the English Premier League club into doubt.

Abramovich announced last week the club was up for sale, just days after he attempted to give trustees of Chelsea's charitable foundation, including British Olympic Association chairman Sir Hugh Robertson, stewardship and care of the club.

The move was considered by many to have been linked to the threat of potential sanctions.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, the official opposition in the UK Parliament, had questioned last week why Abramovich had not been sanctioned declaring that he had been a person of interest to the Home Office because of "his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices".

Abramovich is one of seven additional people to have been sanctioned by the UK Government today, with his assets having been frozen, a prohibition placed on transactions with UK individuals and businesses, and a travel ban and transport sanctions imposed.

"Abramovich is associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades," the sanctions list reads.

"This association has included obtaining a financial benefit or other material benefit from Putin and the Government of Russia.

"This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run up to the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

"Therefore, Abramovich has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Government of Russia."

The UK Government claims Abramovich is also associated to former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Alisher Usmanov, both sanctioned on March 3.

Usmanov stepped down as International Fencing Federation President after being hit by sanctions from the European Union, which he has vowed to challenge.

The UK Government has claimed the Chelsea owner has been involved in "destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, via Evraz PLC, a steel manufacturing and mining company in which Abramovich has a significant shareholding and over which Abramovich exercises effective control".

The sanction claims that, "Evraz PLC is or has been involved in providing financial services, or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or in dependence of Ukraine – which includes potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks."

The UK Government acknowledged the sanctions would have a "significant impact" on Chelsea, leading to a licence being published to allow football-related activities to continue.

"This includes permissions for the club to continue playing matches and other football related activity which will in turn protect the Premier League, the wider football pyramid, loyal fans and other clubs.

"This licence will only allow certain explicitly named actions to ensure the designated individual is not able to circumvent UK sanctions.

"The licence will be kept under constant review and we will work closely with the football authorities."

The licence will allow for matches to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and season ticket holders to attend matches.

Tickets or merchandise cannot be sold by the club during the period.

The move raises questions over the potential sale of the club.

The sanctioning of Roman Abramovich has added uncertainty to the sale of Chelsea ©Getty Images
The sanctioning of Roman Abramovich has added uncertainty to the sale of Chelsea ©Getty Images

Following the sanctions, mobile phone company Three today temporarily suspended its shirt sponsorship deal with the club.

In a statement Three said: "In light of the Government’s recently announced sanctions, we have requested Chelsea Football Club temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from shirts and around the stadium until further notice.

"We recognise that this decision will impact the many Chelsea fans who follow their team passionately.  However, we feel that given the circumstances, and the Government sanction that is in place, it is the right thing to do." 

Abramovich claimed last week that he would not ask for any loans the club owes him from the sale, having loaned more than £1.5 billion ($2 billion/€1.8 billion) to Chelsea.

He had claimed a charitable foundation would be established, with net proceeds from the sale will be used to help victims of the war in Ukraine.

Reports have claimed the sale of the club could still be approved by the UK Government on a special licence.

This would reportedly be on the condition that Abramovich would not receive any funds from the sale.

Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for £140 million ($187 million/€169 million), with his ownership leading to a period of sustained success.

The club has won five Premier League titles and the Champions League twice under the Russian's ownership.

Last month, it lifted the FIFA Club World Cup, beating Brazilian side Palmeiras 2-1 in the final in Abu Dhabi. 

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of the club, Chelsea's men's and women's teams are scheduled to play fixtures in their domestic leagues today, against Norwich City and West Ham United respectively.

Oleg Deripaska, Abramovich’s one-time business partner, is among the latest seven people sanctioned.

Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller, Transneft President Nikolai Tokarev and Dmitri Lebedev chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Rossiya, have also been hit by sanctions.