Chelsea’s parent company is to be allowed to inject up to £ 30mn into the football club to help the Premier League side “resolve any cash flow or liquidity issues”.
The UK Treasury set out the move on Wednesday in amendments to the special license granted to Chelsea to allow the club to continue operating despite the government’s decision to sanction owner Roman Abramovich, the Russian-Israeli billionaire, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move means that Fordstam, Chelsea’s parent company, can inject funds that could be used to pay bills or player salaries, as the club moves closer to a sale.
Abramovich is the “ultimate controlling party” of Fordstam, according to its accounts, through which he owns Chelsea.
“We’re all very mindful of the financial situation and getting it through to the sale,” said a government official.
“The club still has certain obligations it needs to meet [and] giving the club access to cash flow from the parent company is the most appropriate way of making sure those obligations can be met. ”
The auction of Chelsea, which is being run by US merchant bank Raine, is attracting rich suitors looking for a chance to join the ranks of the 20 best clubs in England. Raine is selecting a shortlist of bidders to progress to the next round of the process.
However, the transaction requires special approval from the UK government, which is adamant that Abramovich cannot benefit from the sale proceeds.
Bankrolled by Abramovich, Chelsea was transformed into a member of the Premier League’s so-called Big Six, alongside heavyweight London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, and northern powers Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United. Together, these clubs dominate the English game.
Bidders include Todd Boehly, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, and the Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, a rival side. City of London grandee Martin Broughton is leading another group backed by private equity billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
Other interested parties include British property developer Nick Candy and London-based investment manager Centricus.
The original license imposed a series of restrictions on the club, such as barring the sale of merchandise, but allowed it to continue playing matches despite the sanctions on Abramovich.
The club remains blocked from selling tickets to its own fans for Premier League matches at its home stadium, Stamford Bridge.
However, the license allows the club to resume selling new tickets under certain conditions.
Rival fans will be allowed to pay for admission to matches at Chelsea’s ground. The club can sell tickets to all fans for matches in the Uefa Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club tournament, for games in the domestic FA Cup, and for the Women’s Super League.
But the proceeds from these sales will be directed to competition organizers, such as Uefa.
“The government has today made alterations to the license to Chelsea football club so that fans will be able to access tickets to away matches, cup games and women’s fixtures,” said UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.
“I would like to thank fans for their patience while we have engaged with the football authorities to make this possible,” he added.
A Premier League spokesperson said: “The revised license allows fans to attend Chelsea FC games; Chelsea fans to travel to away Premier League fixtures and Chelsea fans to attend the FA Cup, Uefa Champions League and WSL games.
“The Premier League will receive and hold any revenue from the sale of these tickets that would normally have gone to Chelsea. Chelsea FC have requested and the Premier League agreed that this revenue will be donated to charity to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine.
“The beneficiary charities will be announced in due course after consultation with the club.”
Chelsea did not respond to a request for comment.
Scoreboard is the Financial Times’ must-read weekly briefing on the business of sport, where you’ll find the best analysis of financial issues affecting clubs, franchises, owners, investors and media groups across the global industry. Sign up here.