Russian owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovich says he is “giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care” of the club.
Abramovich remains the club’s owner but has made the move as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.
The decision also comes a day before Chelsea play Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,” Abramovich said in a statement.
“I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.
“I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”
He did not refer to the invasion of Ukraine in his statement.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it was “seeking urgent clarification” on what the statement means for the running of the club.
It is not known yet if Abramovich will be sanctioned as part of the UK government’s measures against Russia.
As it stands at the moment, Chelsea are not up for sale, and the £1.5bn loan their owner gave to the club is not being called in.
Abramovich is one of Russia’s richest people and is believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He added: “During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.”
The Chelsea Foundation runs the club’s community and education departments as well as other charitable activities. Its chairman is US lawyer Bruce Buck, who is also chairman of the club as a whole.
The foundation’s other trustees are Chelsea women’s team manager Emma Hayes, the club’s director of finance Paul Ramos, British Olympic Association chair Sir Hugh Robertson, Fare (Football Against Racism in Europe) chief Piara Powar and lawyer John Devine.
During Abramovich’s time at Chelsea, the club have won the Champions League twice, both the Premier League and FA Cup five times, the Europa League twice and the League Cup three times.
In August 2021, they won the Uefa Super Cup and they recently won their first Club World Cup, meaning the Blues have won every possible trophy under Abramovich’s ownership.
Earlier in the week, Labour’s Chris Bryant told MPs he had a leaked Home Office document that suggested Abramovich should not be able to base himself in the UK.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Friday there were “so many uncertainties around the situation of our club” following Russia’s invasion of a neighboring country.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it was “ready to work with the trustees of the Chelsea Foundation in order to ensure the long-term interests of the club and supporters”. It added: “We stand with the people of Ukraine.”
Abramovich owns the club because Chelsea FC is owned by a company called Fordstam, and Fordstam has borrowed £1.5bn from a company called Camberley International, which is based in the British Virgin Islands, and that company is controlled by Roman Abramovich, so it is already a fairly convoluted structure.
He may have taken this step because if the UK government tries to seize his assets then those assets would include Chelsea Football Club and that could have implications if this conflict drags on for a long period of time in terms of how the club would be funded.
By transferring it to the foundation, which is a charitable arm and he is not one of the trustees – although some people with long business connections are on the foundation – his legal team would be able to say Chelsea could not be seized by the government.