Chelsea Foundation trustees have not yet agreed to take over the club as requested by owner Roman Abramovich following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The six trustees want more information about whether running the club would be compatible with UK charity law and raised their concerns at a meeting on Sunday.
The foundation’s lawyers are now working to see whether what Mr Abramovich is proposing can actually be put into effect.
Who are the Chelsea Foundation trustees?
Bruce Buck, Chelsea chair
John Devine, partner at sports legal firm Muckle LLP
Emma Hayes, Chelsea Women manager
Piara Power, chair of anti-discrimination network FARE
Paul Ramos, Chelsea finance director
Sir Hugh Robertson, former Sports Minister
The trustees said they would need to be totally comfortable that any change complies with the law before they assume “control” of the club while Mr Abramovich remains the owner.
But the move came at a time when Western countries are imposing increasingly stringent sanctions on Russian oligarchs and interests, over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Abramovich’s statement was heavily criticised before Chelsea then released a second, shorter statement 14 hours later on Sunday morning, saying: “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.”
A number of commentators pointed out that neither statement pointed to Russia as the aggressor or what had actually happened in Ukraine – an invasion.
It did not go far enough for MP Chris Bryant, who had previously called in parliament for action against the billionaire, who tweeted: “I will continue to call for the UK to sanction him and seize/freeze assets.”
Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville both criticised the statements from Mr Abramovich and Chelsea, questioning whether the billionaire’s handing over of stewardship and care falls short of handing over ownership.
“They should have been a lot stronger in what they said, and regarding Roman Abramovich passing on to Chelsea trustees, that’s not him relinquishing the club, stewardship is not ownership,” said Carragher.
“It’s completely different because he’s still in charge, he’s still running it, which is fine. But to not actually mention in his initial statement what was going on in Ukraine, I thought was really poor.”
Neville described Mr Abramovich’s statement as “meaningless”, saying: “It doesn’t have any strength behind it and the only question we want Roman Abramovich to answer, if he is going to speak, is ‘does he condemn the war or does he support the war on Ukraine?’
“I was surprised at Roman Abramovich. One of the things he’s done well over that 20 years or so is not say anything. At the time when he has said something, I think it’s left more questions than answers.”
Neville added: “Chelsea charity trustees are not running the football club – executives and directors will [be] under the guidance of Roman Abramovich. So I don’t know why he thought, or those close to him thought it was going to wash. What he has done is try to use the charity as a shield, which I don’t think is impressive as a leader.”
Chelsea players joined their colleagues from Liverpool in paying tribute to the people of Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final.
The two teams and thousands of fans at Wembley Stadium applauded when a big screen showed the message ‘Football Stands Together’ on a background of the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag and other screens displayed the embattled nation’s colours.