I stand with Abramovich

By Hunter Ellis, Multimedia managing editor

Dear Reader: You and I both, we’re human beings. Of course, that comes with a deep meaning. It means that we have the ability to reason. It means we have our own personalities and quirks that make us the people we are. But it also means we have our unique flaws. 

However, in the world today, one mistake, one bad act can get someone removed from history books entirely. I’ve seen this reality actualized through my connection to one of my favorite sports teams, Chelsea Football Club.

Chelsea has been marred in controversy lately, much of which has come from the club’s ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

If you aren’t familiar with the world of soccer or the English Premier League, Chelsea has ties to Russia because it is owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. There are a few things you should know about Abramovich.

First, to say that Abramovich is rich would be a vast understatement. Abramovich’s estimated net worth is $14.5 billion, making him one of the 150 richest people on Earth. 

In addition, by basically all accounts, Abramovich is a bad person. He exploited the fall of the Soviet Union to accumulate a personal fortune, paying large bribes to government officials to acquire a large share in Russian oil company Sibneft at far below its true value. 

It was announced recently that Chelsea, as well as the rest of Abramovich’s assets based in the U.K. had been frozen by the government. 

The government has given a few reasons for the sanctions, including Abramovichh’s alleged “close ties to Vladimir Putin‘’ and the alleged involvement of a steel company in which Abramovich owned a large share providing steel to build Russian tanks.

Abramovich has routinely denied his close links to Putin, though for many this might hard to believe.

I don’t know Abramovich, and I have no inside knowledge of his involvement with Putin. What I can say is that I don’t think Abramovich is a bad person at all, and I think the U.K. government has made a big mistake with its sanctions. 

Abramovich announced before the sanctions were released that he would be selling the club. But, before you accuse him of being a deft businessman once again taking advantage of the situation at hand to make a quick profit, you may want to think twice. 

In his announcement of the potential sale of the club, he not only noted that he will be forgiving the club its loan debt owed to him of 1.5 billion dollars, he also announced that any proceeds from the sale of the club will be given to a fund to help victims of the Ukrainian war. This shows why freezing Abramovich’s assets, like Chelsea, is a mistake. Seizing the club doesn’t hurt Abramovich; it hurts the Chelsea fans. It hurts Ukrainian refugees to whom the money was pledged to aid.

I’m not convinced the government should be freezing his assets, even if it is negatively affecting him. 

Let’s not forget what’s at stake for Abramovich personally. This statement of support from the oligarch to Ukraine, as well as Chelsea’s statement decrying the war, come at a great risk for Abramovich. Ultimately, it could get him killed. 

Putin has shown he is absolutely ruthless when not given absolute loyalty by other powerful individuals and oligarchs in the country, most recently proven by the imprisonment of his political opponent Alexei Navalny.

I do recognize that, as a supporter of Chelsea Football Club. Some may call my quick-to-forgive attitude the latest instance of “sportwashing,” a phenomenon in which someone uses sport to improve their reputation.But his generosity has gone beyond the confines of Chelsea. 

He accepted a request from Ukraine to help negotiate for peace. And during a multi-year stint as governor in the Chukotka religion, Abramovich provided an estimated $2 billion in humanitarian aid and investment to help the region.

Reader, while I disagree with the sanctions against Chelsea, that’s not why I’m writing this piece. Simply, I think the situation with Abramovich and Chelsea serves as a stark reminder for all of us that there is good and bad in every single person.