Nobody would have imagined that on its 117th birthday, Chelsea Football Club would be plunged into chaos and uncertainty after sanctions against owner Roman Abramovich.
The UK government has frozen the Russian billionaire’s assets, including his most famous possession Chelsea, the reigning European and Club World Champions.
Sanctions are not so much about dirty money than Abramovich’s close association with the paranoid empire-builder in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin.
Roman did not distance himself from the unjustifiable war in Ukraine, and he knew the government would be coming for him as the body count mounted in Europe’s first conflict since the 1990s.
The Russian oligarch was already trying to sell the club before the sanctions came, now the club has to make a clean break from its recent past.
Under Abramovich, Chelsea enjoyed unbridled success, winning as many trophies as possible during his 19-year reign, but the invasion marked the beginning of the end.
Chelsea’s plight seems insignificant against the backdrop of blood and death of innocent Ukrainians and the Russian people paying for Putin’s folly.
Politics aside, most Chelsea fans respect Abramovich’s contribution to the success story, made possible by his financial clout and dedication to winning.
But Chelsea is a London club with blue veins that survived hardship before Roman and must now do so again in the post-Abramovich era.
There will be haters who believe Chelsea deserve everything coming to them because they bought success with dubious finances.
At the start of the Roman reign, Chelsea needed to spend big to build a team from scratch to become contenders and then Premier League champions.
It is now a well-run club with a clear organisational structure and professional mentality.
The club has built an impressive academy with a clear pathway to the men’s first team and a title-winning women’s team.
Currently, the club is in a precarious position as it cannot do deals to extend contracts of existing players or seal transfer agreements to bring in fresh faces.
Under such a cloud, it is unlikely that defender Azpilicueta (club captain), Rudiger, and Christensen will renew their contracts come to the end of the season.
Chelsea can’t sell tickets for games or merchandise, to make matters worse.
Apparently, Abramovich has 80 days to sell the club before its special license runs out under which it is allowed to operate under sanctions.
After the end of the season in May, the license will not be renewed.
Despite Chelsea’s predicament – kit sponsor Three has suspended its endorsement – there are several billionaires eager to take the club off Abramovich’s hands.
The Russian can make no profit from the sale, and once the government is satisfied with that, the deal can go through.
Supporters hope the club can survive this bump in the road and a dent in its reputation; the UK government knows CFC represents millions of fans worldwide and is woven into Britain’s cultural and sporting fabric.
Chelsea will live to fight another day because it was born that way, like the brave Ukrainians defending their country.
For the integrity of football and the club, there must be no link to what Putin is doing to Ukraine as Chelsea proudly stands for equality, diversity, and peace.
I do not doubt that Roman – who has the club close to his heart — understands this as much as anyone, especially as the war has become drenched in human misery.
It is time for Chelsea to build a new future with a different identity as a global brand.
Hopefully, the impressive German coach Thomas Tuchel will take us on that unknown journey.
The club’s spirit lives on in the loyalty of supporters who sing the blues, rain, or shine, anytime.
Chelsea stands with Ukraine