Chelsea FC: 2003–2022 Abramovich Era – History

  • Chelsea’s 2003–2022 Abramovich era.

History of Chelsea F.C. (2003–2022)

With the club facing an apparent financial crisis, Bates unexpectedly sold Chelsea F.C. in June 2003 for £60 million. In so doing, he reportedly recognised a personal profit of £17 million on the club he had bought for £1 in 1982 (his stake had been diluted to just below 30% over the years).

The club’s new owner was Russian oligarch and billionaire Roman Abramovich, who also took on responsibility for the club’s £80 million of debt, quickly paying some of it. Sergei Pugachev alleged Chelsea was bought on Putin’s orders, an allegation Abramovich has denied. Bates mentioned that Abramovich was in talks to buy Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur before he bought Chelsea in a deal sealed in a day.

Over £100 million was spent on new players, but Ranieri was unable to deliver any trophies, and was replaced by José Mourinho. Under Mourinho, Chelsea became the fifth English team to win back-to-back league championships since the Second World War (2004–05 and 2005–06), in addition to winning an FA Cup (2007) and two League Cups (2005 and 2007).

After a poor start to the 2007–08 season, Mourinho was replaced by Avram Grant,who led the club to their first UEFA Champions League final, which they lost on penalties to Manchester United. The club did not turn a profit in the first nine years of Abramovich’s ownership, and made record losses of £140m in June 2005.

In 2009, under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink, Chelsea won another FA Cup. In 2009–10, his successor Carlo Ancelotti led them to their first Premier League and FA Cup Double, also becoming the first English top-flight club to score 100 league goals in a season since 1963.

In 2012, Roberto Di Matteo led Chelsea to their seventh FA Cup, and their first UEFA Champions League title, beating Bayern Munich 4–3 on penalties, the first London club to win the trophy.

The following year the club won the UEFA Europa League, making them the first club to hold two major European titles simultaneously and one of five clubs to have won the three main UEFA trophies. Mourinho returned as manager in 2013 and led Chelsea to League Cup success in March 2015, and the Premier League title two months later. Mourinho was sacked after four months of the following season after a poor start.

In November 2012, Chelsea announced a profit of £1.4 million for the year ending 30 June 2012, the first time the club had made a profit under Abramovich’s ownership. This was followed by a loss in 2013 and then their highest ever profit of £18.4 million for the year to June 2014.In 2018 Chelsea announced a record after-tax profit of £62 million.

In 2017, under new coach Antonio Conte, Chelsea won their sixth English title and the following season won their eighth FA Cup. In 2018 Conte was sacked after a fifth-place finish and replaced with Maurizio Sarri, under whom Chelsea reached the League Cup final, which they lost on penalties to Manchester City and won the Europa League for a second time, beating Arsenal 4–1 in the final. Sarri then left the club to become manager of Juventus and was then replaced by former Chelsea player Frank Lampard.

In Lampard’s first season he guided Chelsea to fourth place in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final, losing 2–1 to Arsenal. Lampard was dismissed in January 2021 and replaced with Thomas Tuchel.

Under Tuchel, Chelsea reached the FA Cup final, losing 1–0 to Leicester City, and won their second UEFA Champions League title with a 1–0 win over Manchester City in Porto. The club subsequently won the 2021 UEFA Super Cup for the second time by defeating Villarreal 6–5 in a penalty shootout, after it had ended 1–1 in Belfast after extra time, and the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup (the first for the club) in Abu Dhabi after beating Brazilian Palmeiras 2–1.

On 18 April 2021, Chelsea announced they would be joining a new European Super League, a league competition comprising the biggest European clubs. After a backlash from supporters, the club announced their withdrawal days later. The club opted against furloughing their non-matchday staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the decision reportedly coming from Abramovich himself. Chelsea, one of the first clubs to help the National Health Service, lent the club-owned Millennium Hotel for the NHS staff.

Amidst financial sanctions leveled at Russian oligarchs by Western governments in response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich stated on 26 February that he would hand over the stewardship of Chelsea to the trustees of the Chelsea Foundation. The trustees did not immediately agree, due to legal concerns regarding the rules of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

A week later, Abramovich wrote-off the £1.5 billion the club owed him, and put the club up for sale, pledging to donate net proceeds from it to the victims of the war in Ukraine.

On 10 March 2022, the British government announced sanctions on Abramovich with Chelsea allowed to operate under a special license until 31 May. In the following weeks, reports emerged of Abramovich’s involvement in brokering a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia and securing safe evacuation corridors in besieged Ukrainian cities.

An American government official revealed that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy had requested the US government to not levy sanctions on Abramovich given his importance in war relief efforts.

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