A fan told of a “surreal moment” Thursday as he bought the last Chelsea shirt at the club shop before it closed after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned, with supporters voicing their anxiety over the restrictions.
The billionaire owner of the English Premier League side was one of seven oligarchs targeted by the UK government over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, all described as part of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Abramovich announced last week he was selling the European champions.
But that move is now on hold due to the British government’s sanctions, although the London club can still operate under a special licence, with certain restrictions, including on the sale of tickets.
We went round to the club shop and it was still open and, as we went in, they closed the door behind us (and) put the signs up saying, ‘We’re closed due to the ongoing sanctions’
Chelsea said on their website that tickets for the FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough on March 19 would not go on sale as planned on Thursday, with updates to follow “in due course”.
Martyn Hardiman, 29, was with his two-year-old son, Peter, when staff shut the merchandise shop at Stamford Bridge.
He said: “We went round to the club shop and it was still open and, as we went in, they closed the door behind us (and) put the signs up saying, ‘We’re closed due to the ongoing sanctions’.
“We went up, got the shirt, and it turned out to be the last shirt sale of the current era, apparently. It was a surreal moment, but a cool bit of history.”
Fans outside the stadium said they were “nervous” and “concerned” about the sanctions, though most were not worried about Chelsea’s long-term future.
Kai Chapman, 19, said: “I’m quite gutted, really. We could see it coming but as a fan base and a club in general we’ll have to move on.
“I get the whole point of sanctioning Abramovich, but, in terms of supporters, I think it’s a bit harsh to punish us because all we want to do is support our club and go to games, and without being able to purchase tickets it’s going to put us in a hard and awkward position.”
Clive Winter, 61, said: “Let me put on record first – the war is horrendous, absolutely shocking, I’ve got no justification for it whatsoever.
“In the football business this has been coming for a while anyway – the actual sanction – but again, he (Abramovich) has done so much for the club and for charities in this country and all over the world.
“He’s a Chelsea fan and 20 years have gone past and nothing’s been actioned. Surely if there were links or alleged links, something should have happened in the last 20 years rather than leaving it until now?”
Syahmi Anuar, 20, who had travelled to London from Malaysia to see the Stamford Bridge ground, said he was “very disappointed”.
He said: “I’m very worried about the future of the club because I’m a lifelong fan. I have supported Chelsea since I was a little boy. I spent £2,000 ($2,600) just to get here. Once a Blue, always a Blue.”