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Chelsea trustees 'could be compromised'

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Chelsea Foundation trustees should carefully consider 'stewardship role' assigned by Abramovich, says sports law expert

A sports law expert has said trustees of Chelsea Football Club’s charitable foundation should carefully consider whether they want to accept the role of stewards of the club following an announcement by owner Roman Abramovich that he would be passing “stewardship” of the club to the foundation.

A statement by Abramovich two days ago said: “During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the Club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities. I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.”

Though the statement didn’t refer directly to the invasion of Ukraine conducted by forces led by Russian president Vladimir Putin, it is widely understood that this was a direct response to the UK government’s decision to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs following the invasion.

However, Stephen Taylor Heath, head of Sports Law at JMW Solicitors, cast doubt on whether Chelsea Foundation trustees should accept the ‘stewardship’ role.

“It would be prudent for the Trust to consider at this stage whether in fact it should even accept the concept of acting as stewards of the club on behalf of Abramovich on the basis that may in fact compromise their position,” Taylor Heath said in a media interview.

“In the statement Abramovich says that he believes the Trust has the best interests of the club at heart as he does.

"The authenticity of that statement will be brought into sharp focus should the situation arise where the interest of the club may conflict with the interest of Abramovich. What if Abramovich were to seek to call in his loans? What if the club were to seek to take steps to sever legal ownership?

Clearly the club and the Trust itself will need to elaborate on Mr Abramovich‘s statement to clarify the legal situation.”

Taylor Heath added: “"If the government was considering sanctions against Abramovich they will be obtaining legal opinion on its true meaning to establish whether or not in fact it was merely a PR exercise.

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