Chelsea’s status as a ‘significant cultural asset’ means it has been granted a special licence to continue playing, but Abramovich will be deprived of any profits.
This means only existing ticket holders will be allowed to attend games. This includes fans with season tickets, of which there are around 28,000 at Stamford Bridge out of a 41,837 capacity.
The club will not be able to agree any new contracts, preventing it from engaging in the summer transfer market, but existing staff and players will still be paid and catering services provided at matches.
The shape of Chelsea’s long-term future has naturally been thrown into doubt, but Government ministers were quick to insist any damage would be limited.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Twitter: ‘Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account.
‘Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea and its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club & the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.
‘To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club.
‘I know this brings some uncertainty, but the Government will work with the league and clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.’
Abramovich has changed the face of British football in his time as Chelsea owner, leading the Blues to 21 trophies in 19 years in a clean sweep of all global competitions.
But that era has been brought to a halt amid Vladimir Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
British billionaire Nick Candy was the latest high-profile business magnate to throw their hat into the ring for Chelsea’s sale, amid a host of suitors for the Champions League holders.
Swiss tycoon Hansjorg Wyss and American investor Todd Boehly were also in the running, with more than 10 credible parties understood to have been compiling bids.
The Chelsea squad will continue to prepare for Thursday’s Premier League clash at Norwich as normal, but everyone at the club will now set about examining the details of the current situation.
Mr Abramovich’s one time business partner, Oleg Deripaska, has been hit with the same sanctions – as have Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and four more described as being in Putin’s ‘inner circle’.
Boris Johnson said: ‘There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine.
‘Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added: ‘Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society. With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression.
‘The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands. They should hang their heads in shame.
‘Our support for Ukraine will not waver. We will not stop in this mission to ramp up the pressure on the Putin regime and choke off funds to his brutal war machine.’
The Foreign Office said the oligarchs have a collective net worth of around £15billion.
The surprise move came as Defence minister James Heappey insisted the bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine was a war crime and called for Putin and Russian generals to be held to account.
Mr Heappey stressed that the West is gathering evidence that can be used in a future prosecution, but said in a round of interviews: ‘What you see on your TV screens is a war crime.’
The comments came as it was confirmed three people, including a child, died when warplanes bombed the hospital in beseiged Mariupol as pregnant women gave birth in the basement.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the attack as an ‘atrocity’ and ‘the ultimate proof of genocide against Ukrainians’.
The hospital, in the besieged city of Mariupol, was hit ‘several times’ by high-explosive Russian bombs – one of which missed the building by yards and left a crater two-stories deep, officials said. Other bombs scored ‘direct hits’, President Zelensky said, wounding at least 17 people.
Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister, said there can be ‘no doubt’ the hospital was deliberately ‘targeted’ by Russia in a chilling echo tactics used during the bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo while Putin’s men were fighting alongside dictator Basahr al-Assad’s troops. Moscow denies targeting civilian facilities.
Source: Daily Mail