Breaking News: Chelsea fans fear Roman Abramovich may be driven out of the club and worry about World Cup backlash
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich must explain how he acquired his fortune before being allowed back into the country following the expiry of his UK visa – Getty Images
There were fears last night over the implications for Chelsea – and beyond – of the Government crackdown that has engulfed Roman Abramovich.
Fan representatives admitted they were concerned their billionaire benefactor could be driven from the club, as well as warning any targeting of him may backfire on England supporters at this summer’s World Cup.
The Telegraph understands Abramovich must explain how he acquired his fortune before being allowed back into the country following the expiry of his UK visa.
Rules brought in three years ago are being used to scrutinise the origin of the 51-year-old oligarch’s finances following March’s nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal blamed on the Kremlin.
There is no suggestion of wrong doing by Abramovich but the founding chairman of the Chelsea Supporters Trust, Tim Rolls, admitted on Monday it was “at the back of your mind” that the Russian might abandon the club if he was made to feel unwelcome in the UK.
“There’s an awful lot of goodwill towards the owner from most supporters and you’d hope that would continue,” he added.
Roman Abramovich | Q&A
“You would hope there would be no disruption and no problem from that point of view, purely because of what he’s done for the club and for the continued smooth running of the club.
“If the Foreign Office, or Home Office, or whoever, want to play games then that’s completely outside football, isn’t it?”
Chelsea, understood to believe Abramovich remains fully committed to the club, have become less and less dependent on their owner’s cash to compete but his largesse is still crucial to the £1 billion redevelopment of Stamford Bridge.
Dave Chidgey, who succeeded Rolls as CST chairman in 2016, said: “The reality is, yes, there is a political situation and, yes, clearly, he may well be subject to be being targeted. But, given we’re about to have a World Cup in Russia with England going there, I can’t believe the Government would be this aggressive.
“Why would they do that now? They’re about to have a very high-profile presence in Russia with the England team and about 10,000 England fans.
“Given the political situation, why would they want to put them at any risk, which squeezing somebody like Abramovich – who we know has close ties to Vladimir Putin – is bound to do?”