Roman Abramovich sits in the owner’s box at a Chelsea game in December 2015. (Matt Dunham/)
While no sanctions appeared to be imminent, Abramovich’s step back could be seen as an attempt to preemptively dodge sanctions by giving up day-to-day control of the club.
“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.”
The statement did not directly address the invasion. The foundation is led by seven people, and the chairman is Bruce Buck.
Abramovich’s move is the latest in a series of actions across European soccer in response to the Russian attack. Governing body UEFA pulled the Champions League final out of St. Petersburg, while numerous players made statements with words and actions across the continent.
The Polish national team, scheduled to face Russia in a World Cup qualifier in March, said it wouldn’t play the match. The Swedish national team could’ve faced the winner of such a match, but also said it would refuse to play Russia.
“No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia,” Polish football association president Cezary Kulesza said Saturday.
The team itself also released a statement, and Kulesza was directly backed by the team’s best player, global superstar Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich.
“It is the right decision!” Lewandowski tweeted. “I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues. Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”