(Reuters) – Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has given trustees of the London side’s foundation stewardship of the Premier League club, the Russian billionaire said on Saturday, amid calls in Britain that he be sanctioned over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich, who bought the London club in 2003, said the foundation was in the “best position to look after the interests” of the club.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values.”
Abramovich remains the club owner and the statement did not reveal why he was giving the foundation stewardship nor any detail on how the arrangement would work.
Several Russian individuals and entities have been put under sanctions by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after Moscow launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea this week.
Abramovich has not faced any sanctions but some British opposition lawmakers said on Thursday that he should be included. One, Chris Bryant, said the UK should seize his assets and bar him from owning the football club.
Abramovich, whose wealth stems in part from mining in Russia, did not refer to the situation in Ukraine or to the issue of sanctions in his statement on Saturday.
The chairman of the Chelsea foundation trustees is American lawyer Bruce Buck who is also chairman of the club as a whole.
The foundation trustees include women’s team manager Emma Hayes and the club’s director of finance Paul Ramos.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said Friday that uncertainty over Abramovich’s future was weighing on the club ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final.
Chelsea found unprecedented success after Abramovich took over, winning five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice.
The Russian invested money into Chelsea which allowed it to sign key players and break the dominance of Manchester United and Arsenal in the mid-2000s.
A study published by Switzerland-based independent research group CIES Football Observatory revealed Chelsea had spent 1.628 billion euros ($1.83 billion) in transfer fees in the last decade alone — second only to Manchester City.
Abramovich, however, was not known for his patience and the club has appointed over a dozen different managers since he took over. Some, such as Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink, have had two separate stints, with the latter appointed on an interim basis.
($1 = 0.8875 euros)
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Simon Evans; Editing by Alison Williams and Frank Jack Daniel)