Chelsea FC decries ‘horrific’ invasion of Ukraine as its oligarch owner seeks distance from Moscow

Chelsea FC, one of the world’s most prominent soccer teams, decried the “horrific” invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, a day after its Russian oligarch owner made a tepid effort to distance himself from Moscow. 

Hours before Chelsea lost an epic Carabao Cup final to Liverpool in a penalty kick tiebreaker, the West London club denounced Russia’s military action in more pointed terms than its owner, Roman Abramovich, did less than 24 hours earlier. 

“The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating,” the team said. “Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.” 

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, announced Saturday that he was transferring stewardship of the club to its charitable foundation. 

While he said the foundation is “in the best position to” manage the club, Abramovich didn’t mention the invasion, Russia or Ukraine in his statement.

Chelsea’s damage-control statement Sunday was too little, too late, NBC soccer analyst Robbie Earle said.

“For a football club that generally does things very well, I thought was an embarrassment,” Earle said. “It was very much ticking a box. It was cold. It lacked empathy. It lacked any responsibility.”

Abramovich’s passing reference to Russia’s attack drew fire from across the United Kingdom, with at least one lawmaker calling for  his U.K. assets to be frozen.

“I’m worried that the British press (with some notable exceptions) have fallen for the Abramovich line on ceding control,” Chris Bryant, a member of Parliament, said in a statement Sunday. “Unless and until he condemns the criminal invasion of Ukraine I will continue to call for the UK to sanction him and seize/freeze assets.”

Chelsea is the world’s 25th most valuable franchise, worth $3.2 billion, according to Forbes rankings last year.

The financial magazine estimated that Abramovich is worth $13.6 billion, making him the world’s 142nd richest person.

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