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Update: Chelsea open talks with British government over Abramovich sanction

Despite the restrictions placed on both the billionaire and the club, ‘an application for a licence to sell the club would be considered’ by the Government, according to MailOnline report.

The Russian tycoon would not be allowed to take any of the money from any prospective deal – with the club understood to be up for sale for around £3billion – and it would instead be determined by Downing Street.

Pat Nevin, who played for the club 193 times, later revealed on BBC 5Live that some members of the club’s staff had already been ‘partially laid off’ in the wake of today’s financial sanctions.

The former Blues star, who still writes for the club’s website, also warned that Chelsea’s future remains ‘in serious danger’ and called on Abramovich to sell to the ‘right people’.

Three UK’s decision to suspend its sponsorship deal with Chelsea sets up a possible wave of corporate boycotts that could see the club deprived of tens of millions of pounds worth of revenue and facing financial meltdown.

Car manufacturer Hyundai today said it is ‘currently assessing’ its contract with the West London side, while grocery delivery firm has placed its partnership ‘under review’.

Analysts say other sponsors are likely to follow Three in the hope of avoiding ‘guilt by association’ with Abramovich, who officials say owes at least part of his £9.4billion fortune to his friendship with Vladimir Putin.

Last year, Chelsea made £154m from commercial deals despite the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, before Covid struck, the club earned £200m in sponsorship.

Three’s announcement came hours after the company announced packages to support Ukrainian refugees arriving into the UK, including free pre-paid 30-day pay-as-you-go sim cards.

A spokesman for the firm said today: ‘In light of the government’s recently announced sanctions, we have requested Chelsea Football Club temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from shirts and around the stadium until further notice.’

Chelsea is today today holding urgent talks with the government to try and alter the terms of its licence, which is intended to allow the club to do the ‘bare minimum’ to keep running.

A £20,000 maximum spend on away travel is among the terms expected to be varied after it emerged the usual budget is far higher.

The Treasury set the figure without consulting the club due to the need for secrecy, and ‘didn’t know how much it costs to run an away game’.

It is understood the team are due to fly from London to Norwich at the weekend and the trip is set to cost ‘tens of thousands of pounds’.

‘Maybe we should make them get the Megabus to Norwich,’ one source joked to MailOnline.

The £20,000 cap also raises serious logistical questions for its Champions League game in Lille next Wednesday, although Sky Sports reported claims by a Chelsea player’s agent that the club had already paid for this year’s travel in advance.

Executives are also said to be concerned about the maximum spend of £500,000 for hosting home games, which includes costs like stewarding, security and catering supplies.

Today, Chelsea confirmed it ‘intended to engage in discussions with the UK Government regarding the scope of the licence’.

The embargo on ticket sales will cost the club more than £600,000 a game, based on a £47 minimum ticket cost for the 12,834 seats at Stamford Bridge that are not already occupied by season ticket holders.

Abramovich, whose tainted billions propelled Chelsea from mid-table mediocrity to five Premier League titles, has been banned from doing business in the UK – meaning his plan to sell the club is on hold.

Ministers are understood to be clear that it is ultimately a matter for Ambramovich whether he sells, but any assets realised will remain frozen.

However, an insider admitted it is not a sustainable position for the football club. ‘The quicker the sale the better,’ they said.

A senior government source said there is no intention for the taxpayer to take full control of Chelsea.

Chelsea’s status as a ‘significant cultural asset’ means it can continue playing, but Abramovich will be deprived of any profits.

The club has been banned from selling home and away tickets, with only fans who have already bought tickets allowed to attend games.

There is also the prospect that Champions League games will be played effectively behind closed doors, as those tickets are often purchased separately from season tickets.

A source told Mailonline: ‘Stamford Bridge is not going to be empty … we don’t expect them to play behind closed doors. It does mean there may be some empty seats but not an empty ground.’

Chelsea will not be able to agree any new contracts, preventing it from engaging in the summer transfer market.

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta and key central defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen could now leave for nothing when their contracts expire this summer.

Chelsea will continue to receive TV broadcast payments and prize money, but this will be frozen. Existing staff and players can continue to be paid.

The club – which today marks its 117th birthday – cannot sell any merchandise itself, but retailers who already hold stock can continue to do so, as long as none of the money ends up in Chelsea’s hands.

The licence to continue operating will last until May 31, but can be ‘varied, revoked or suspended’ at any time. If the club were to end up in administration, they would receive a nine point penalty.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the aim of today’s measures was to ensure that Abramovich cannot ‘benefit from his ownership’.

The Russian oligarch’s name was chanted by Chelsea fans during a minute’s applause for Ukraine at Burney on Saturday, leading to widespread condemnation.

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