- Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire who owns Chelsea F.C. in London, has not had his U.K. visa renewed.
- There is solid speculation that Abramovich’s long ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin are the cause of the Abramovich’s visa renewal being held up.
- Abramovich has been extensively involved with Chelsea and has used his wealth to almost single-handedly transform the club into one of the biggest in Europe.
When Chelsea Football Club won the FA Cup on Saturday, one figure was conspicuously absent, the club’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
Abramovich, reportedly, has not been able to enter the United Kingdom as his visa has not been renewed, and it may be because of Abramovich’s close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
A report in the Financial Times states, “Pressure is growing to take action against Russian oligarchs in London after the poisoning in March of ex-Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a rare nerve agent in Salisbury. At the time, foreign secretary Boris Johnson promised that the UK would ‘go after the money’ in retaliation of the attack.”
And Luke Harding wrote something similar in The Guardian:
“It is uncertain whether the oligarch’s visa woes are temporary and soon to be resolved, or something more permanent akin to a de facto ban. Abramovich has declined to comment. His representatives have said merely, and tactfully, that the process is taking a little longer than usual.
“Either way, the delay appears to be the result of a new, tougher stance against Russian nationals.”
Harding went on to elaborate on Abramovich’s relationship with Putin, and said that the Chelsea owner ” . . . was one of Putin’s early supporters.” Harding also described Abramovich as ” . . . a big Kremlin player, albeit one who operated behind the scenes.”
From a soccer standpoint, Abramovich is about as far as one can get from being an absentee owner. Since taking over Chelsea in 2003, he has poured an extraordinary amount of his own money into the club, funding splashy transfers for stars such as Ashley Cole and Arjen Robben, and transforming Chelsea from a small London club into one of the premier powers in Europe.
Abramovich could certainly continue to oversee the club from abroad if it were necessary, and besides, with the revenue from a massive Premier League television deal, regular Champions League appearances, and other sources, the club is not quite as dependent upon Abramovich’s personal wealth as it once was.
Still, this is an unwelcome development heading into the offseason for Chelsea, particularly since the club is also dealing with uncertainty over whether or not manager Antonio Conte will return.
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