Chelsea have had several accounts and credit cards suspended temporarily following sanctions imposed on club owner Roman Abramovich by the UK government, British media reported Friday.
Russian-born billionaire Abramovich had all his British assets frozen on Thursday barring Chelsea, with the Premier League club allowed to continue with “football-related activities”.
But the European champions cannot operate as a business and have been banned from selling match tickets or merchandise.
The Independent was one of several British outlets that reported Chelsea had been in discussions with the government in the hope of amending the license and easing the restrictions but were hit on Friday when banks suspended the club’s accounts.
There are significant fears over the club’s future given the impact of shutting those accounts crucial to day-to-day club activities.
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Abramovich, 55, was one of a further seven more oligarchs hit by fresh UK sanctions on Thursday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
All seven are described as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Abramovich had already announced he was willing to sell Chelsea, who won 19 major trophies in his 19-year reign.
Chelsea’s strict licence is designed to ensure Abramovich will not profit from the London club’s continued operations.
The commercial fallout became apparent as mobile phone firm Three announced it was suspending its sponsorship deal with Chelsea, and demanded its logo be removed from players’ shirts.
Coach Thomas Tuchel joked it would be a surprise if Chelsea had any kit to play in this weekend.
“Maybe the worry is more to find enough shirts that we can play in, with the sanctions,” he said. “But as long as we have enough shirts, and as long as the bus is full of fuel, we will arrive and we will be competitive.
Chelsea put their off-field turmoil to one side to beat Premier League strugglers Norwich 3-1 on Thursday.
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 new contracts.
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, who said Chelsea’s wage bill was around £28 million a month, claimed in the short-term it would be business as usual but there could be problems further down the line.
“The concern might be what happens if Chelsea’s cash reserves are insufficient to pay their wage bill — but presumably the government and Premier League, who have been working on this, will have been looking at it to try to minimise disruption on a club level,” Maguire said.
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin told the BBC World Football Podcast that the club were in “uncharted water”.
“It’s minute-to-minute and I can promise you now, that club doesn’t know what is going to happen today, tomorrow or in a couple of days’ time,” he said.
“Once you start digging down into what this could do — yes, they can play their games but will they even be able?
“It’s not hyperbole to say the future of the club is in serious danger.”
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, turning the perennial also-rans into serial winners with unlimited transfer funds after he became rich on the chaotic privatisation of state assets in 1990s Russia.
He has denied claims that he bought the Stamford Bridge club on Putin’s orders, to expand Russia’s influence abroad in the early 2000s.
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, pledging to write off the Blues’ £1.5 billion debt and invest all sale proceeds into a new charitable foundation to aid victims of the conflict in Ukraine.