Chelsea freeze: What the Abramovich sanctions mean for fans

Stamford Bridge shuts its doors to ticket and shirt sales as club sell-off is put on hold

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Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium remained quiet as fans tried to weigh up the implications of the asset freeze on owner Roman Abramovich.

The billionaire owner of the Premier League club was one of seven oligarchs targeted by the UK government over Russia's military activity in Ukraine, all described as part of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

Abramovich had announced last week he was selling the European champions, but that is now on hold and Chelsea fans were left speculating about what will happen to the club.

In the short term, it can operate under a special licence, with certain restrictions, including on the sale of tickets and club merchandise – with the club shops shutting yesterday – and the buying of players.

Chelsea said on their website that tickets for the FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough on March 19 would not go on sale as planned on Thursday, with updates to follow "in due course".

Fans outside the stadium said they were "nervous" and "concerned" about the sanctions, though most were not worried about Chelsea's long-term future.

Kai Chapman, 19, said: "I'm quite gutted, really. We could see it coming but as a fan base and a club in general we'll have to move on.

"I get the whole point of sanctioning Abramovich but, in terms of supporters, I think it's a bit harsh to punish us because all we want to do is support our club and go to games, and without being able to purchase tickets it's going to put us in a hard and awkward position."

Syahmi Anuar, 20, who had travelled to London from Malaysia to see the Stamford Bridge ground, said he was "very disappointed".

He said: "I'm very worried about the future of the club because I'm a lifelong fan. I have supported Chelsea since I was a little boy. Once a Blue, always a Blue."

One fan told of the "surreal moment" as he bought the last Chelsea shirt at the club shop before it closed

Martyn Hardiman, 29, was with his two-year-old son, Peter, when staff shut the merchandise shop at Stamford Bridge.

He said: "We went round to the club shop and it was still open and, as we went in, they closed the door behind us (and) put the signs up saying, 'We're closed due to the ongoing sanctions'.

"We went up, got the shirt, and it turned out to be the last shirt sale of the current era, apparently. It was a surreal moment but a cool bit of history."

The impact of the restrictions on Chelsea will soon emerge – with lost Premier League ticket sales alone potentially costing the club more than £2 million. Here are some of the questions fans were asking:

Ticket sales

Season ticket holders will still be able to attend Stamford Bridge, while all match tickets already sold will be honoured.

That covers this Sunday’s game with Newcastle and April 2’s visit of Brentford but the final three home league games of the season against West Ham, Wolves and Watford will all be subject to the new restrictions, along with any home ties should they progress further in the Champions League.

Stamford Bridge holds 41,837 fans, with Chelsea reportedly having around 28,000 season ticket holders – leaving nearly 14,000 seats sold on a match-by-match basis.

That includes the away team allocation – 3,000 for Premier League games at £30 or £23.50 for concessions, worth between £70,000 and £90,000 per match.

While home ticket prices vary, from £80 on general sale in the Westview hospitality section to £25 for club members for a restricted view in the Matthew Harding Stand lower section, the various areas average out to £58 on general sale or £56 for members.

With just shy of 11,000 tickets unsold in those areas relative to a capacity crowd, that would mean another £600,000-plus missing from the club coffers and around £700,000 per match in all – an estimated £2.1m for the three games combined.

Chelsea Supporters Trust Board member Dan Silver fears for the impact on not just the club but also a host of part-time employees.

He said: “It is not just the players and supporters. It is also the matchday staff, who maybe only work one day a week who rely on the extra money to come in to help themselves live."

Commercial revenue

Chelsea’s December accounts showed commercial revenue of £153.6m for the 2020-21 season, down slightly from £170.4m the previous season but holding up far better than ticket sales under the pressures of the pandemic.

A January survey by Euromericas Sport Marketing ranked Chelsea seventh in the world for shirt sales in 2021 with 1.31m sold, behind Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United, Juventus and Barcelona.

With shirts priced at £69.95 on the club’s website, or £84.95 with player name and number printing, the loss of that revenue is potentially significant and will affect even the Newcastle and Brentford games – though, with just two months of the season remaining, most shirt sales in particular may already be accounted for.

Updated: March 10, 2022, 6:56 PM
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