Technology minister Chris Philp implores Chelsea fans to consider what Russian regime are doing to civilians in Ukraine
Chelsea fans have been criticised by a government minister for voicing their support for owner Roman Abramovich, and have been told to consider the “humanitarian situation” in Ukraine before singing the name of the sanctioned Russian oligarch.
Supportive chants could be heard throughout their 3-1 victory over Norwich City on Thursday night, just hours after the UK Government became the first to implement sanctions on the Russian by freezing his assets and imposing a travel ban. As part of the ruling, tough restrictions have been imposed on Chelsea, including an effective transfer ban and a suspension on being able to sell any more match-day tickets and merchandise.
Technology minister Chris Philp criticised the Chelsea fans who chanted songs about Abramovich in light of the Russian invasion, which has seen hundreds of Ukrainian civilians including women and children killed, as well as thousands of military personnel on both sides.
Philp told Times Radio: “I’m a football fan myself, I’m a Palace fan, in south London.
“So, I understand why fans are very attached to their football clubs. But Roman Abramovich is someone who has been sanctioned now, yesterday morning, for his very close links to Vladimir Putin and the Putin regime.
“I just say respectfully to the Chelsea fans, I know he’s done a lot for the club, but the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and what the Russian regime are doing to civilians – shelling maternity hospitals and shooting civilians who are fleeing down humanitarian corridors – and that is more important than football.
“I say that as a football fan myself and I would just ask them to keep that in mind.”
The Chelsea supporters who chanted at Carrow Road on Thursday were duly met with boos and “f— off Abramovich” responses in respect of the now sanctioned billionaire Russian, who was described on Thursday by the British Government as “one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under [Vladimir] Putin”.
Philp also said he was “very confident” Abramovich and other sanctioned Russian oligarchs will not be able to successfully challenge the measures.
He told Times Radio: “I’m very confident that these sanctioned individuals would not be able to successfully challenge these measures legally, we’ve been very careful to make sure this is totally legally watertight.”
While Chelsea’s fans were in vociferous mood, the riposte to their now familiar, “We’ve won it all” chant ought to have brought them back down to earth. “You’ve lost it all”, “Dirty Russian money” and “You’re going bust” would soon repeatedly echo through the Norfolk air.
The sanctions have resulted in a temporary pause being placed on the process to sell the club by American banking group Raine, who have been tasked with the responsibility to find new owners.
At least three leading candidates have emerged with at least one formal offer being made, with American Todd Boehly and Swiss Hansjorg Weiss understood to be leading contenders along with the Ricketts family – owners of the Chicago Cubs – and Woody Johnson, the New York Jets owner.
Telegraph Sport understands that Thursday’s developments has not put off prospective bidders, but that situation could change if sponsors begin to terminate deals with the club, which would subsequently alter the club’s value. Mobile phone company Three, who are one of three principal partners of Chelsea, suspended their £40m-per-season deal with the club and have asked for their logo to be removed from shirts while Abramovich remains at the helm.
However, British billionaire property tycoon Nick Candy has reiterated his interest in putting together a bid for the west London-based club, although it is known that he is in talks with other interested parties in order to put together a bid as he lacks the funds to buy the club individually.
“We are examining the details of the announcement and we are still interested in making a bid,’ a spokesperson for Candy told the Daily Mail. “Clearly this is a time of great uncertainty for all Chelsea fans.”