Gary Neville, former Manchester United defender who now works as a Sky Sports commentator, believes that Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich conned the world for handing over Chelsea to the club’s charity foundation board amid Russia and Ukraine crisis.
Recall that after Russia’s military invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, most parts of the world have been against Russia and everything linked to it.
One of such entities linked to Russia is the Chelsea football club, a club owned by Abramovich, a Russian billionaire who is said to be a very close associate of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Hence, critics and some members of parliament in the United Kingdom want him to cease being the owner of Chelsea.
To take Chelsea out of the debate, Roman Abramovich decided to announce on Saturday, February 26, that he has handed over the running of the Premier League club to the club’s charity foundation board.
Roman Abramovich’s statement read: “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.
“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. 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.”
While reacting to Abramovich’s statement, Gary Neville said: “I thought it was cowardly to throw a hospital pass to the good people on the charity foundation board. It’s quite clear he runs the club with Marina and Cech. The top 6 owners are insulated from reality. They think they can put a smart PR team around them to con us.”
Abramovich’s statement did not only generate more criticism against him, Chelsea was not left out. Hence, the Premier League club had to publish a 24-word statement in reaction to the ongoing hostility in Ukraine.
Chelsea’s 24 words statement read: “The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.”
Gary Neville reacts to Roman Abramovich’s and Chelsea’s statements
Gary Neville who played for Manchester United between 1992 and 2011 was not impressed with the statements from Chelsea and the owner of the club. The 47-year-old pundits believe that the 24-word statement from Chelsea was bad Public Relations.
The ex-footballer said: “It is PR, it was bad PR. I don’t know if the statement this morning was planned or if it was off the back of people seeing through the statement last night which was first released which said Roman Abramovich was handing over to the Charity trustees – which no one has bought.
“I think everyone worked out that didn’t have any credibility or substance whatsoever. I would have preferred Roman Abramovich to come out and say I’m a Russian national, I own Chelsea Football Club and I will continue to own Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea charity trustees are not running the football club, executives and directors will be under the guidance of Roman Abramovich.
“What he has done is try to use the charity as a shield, which I don’t think is impressive as a leader. Those people on that trustee board didn’t sign up to be used by Roman Abramovich in a crisis, they signed up to work on a charity board to assist in their foundation, not to be used as a shield telling everyone they’re running the football club because they’re not.”
🗣 "These owners of the top 6 clubs are insulated from reality, they think they can put a smart PR team around them and con us."@GNev2 gives his opinion on Roman Abramovich's statement about stepping away from Chelsea pic.twitter.com/4lQ1TppDqc— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 27, 2022
Is Roman Abramovich still the owner of Chelsea?
Roman Abramovich who has been the owner of Chelsea since 2003 is still the official owner of Chelsea even though he has handed over the control of the club to the club’s charity foundation board.
The Russian billionaire has reportedly invested over 1 billionaire pound at the club for over 20 years which helped the club to win every title available in club football including five Premier League titles, two UEFA Champions League, one Super Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup.
Even though the pressure is mounting on him to step down completely as Chelsea’s owner, reports claimed that Roman Abramovich is not planning to sell Chelsea.
As it stands, the only thing that could take Chelsea away from Abramovich is if the UK government decides to take the club from him over the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
Roman Abramovich will remain Chelsea owner. Director Marina Granovskaia together with Petr Cech will take care of every club aspect like contract extensions, new signings and more. 🔵 #CFC— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 27, 2022
Abramovich made that move to «protect» Chelsea as club, including board and players. pic.twitter.com/KD84W5gnNp
The good news for Chelsea’s supporters who might not like to see Abramovich lose total control of the club is that Ukraine are reportedly using him to foster peace between Ukraine and Russia. That could be something that might win the Russian-Israeli billionaire some goodwill.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's spokesperson says he's been asked by Ukraine to help support their attempts to reach a "peaceful resolution" with Russia. Here's 3 mins on Chelsea, Abramovich and Russia. https://t.co/ADlisM6GlC pic.twitter.com/qfbFvS29ZR— Ros Atkins (@BBCRosAtkins) February 28, 2022
Latest reports claimed that Abramovich has already started to advocate for peace between the two countries which could be a better PR compared to just handing over Chelsea to the club’s charity foundation board.