(CMR) English Premier Football Club Chelsea faces an uncertain future as doubts swirl over how the European champions will even pay their wage bill after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was hit with UK sanctions.
AFP reported that the Premier League club put a brave face on events as they returned to action on Thursday, just hours after the billionaire's assets were frozen.
Chelsea fans chanted Abramovich's name during their 3-1 victory at relegation-threatened Norwich as they tightened their grip on the third spot in the English top-flight.
England midfielder Mason Mount posted a picture of himself on Instagram with the message “For the fans!”. At the same time, fellow goalscorer Trevoh Chalobah dedicated the win to “every Chelsea fan across the globe!”
But the upbeat words hide deep unease over what will unfold in the coming weeks.
Abramovich was one of seven oligarchs targeted by Britain in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, all of whom were described as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
The 55-year-old had already announced his intention to sell Chelsea, with a host of potential buyers declaring their interest in a club that has won 19 major trophies since he bought the side in 2003.
The government is still open to a sale but would have to approve a new licence. On the proviso no profit would go to the Russian, who has bankrolled the club to the tune of around £1.5 billion.
Meantime the club will have to operate under the stringent new rules, which prohibit the sale of tickets and effectively place them under a transfer ban.
Senior defenders Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, and Andreas Christensen are all out of contract this summer, with their futures up in the air as the club cannot agree on new contracts.
The club is already feeling the impact of the sanctions, with shirt sponsor Three suspending its deal. Reports suggest Nike is considering walking away from their huge kit agreement.
But the club's official training wear partner Trivago said Friday that it was sticking with Chelsea despite the “challenging” situation.
“We are looking forward to a transition of ownership as soon as possible and want to support the club in this process,” it said in a statement.
“We will provide any update to our business relationship if and when appropriate.”
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, who said Chelsea's wage bill was around £28 million a month, claimed it would be business as usual in the short-term, but there could be problems further down the line.