Mobile phone company Three has suspended its sponsorship of Chelsea and asked the club to remove the logo from its shirts with immediate effect.
The news came after Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was placed under sanctions by the UK government for being “associated with someone who is or has been involved in the destabilization of Ukraine and who has undermined and threatened the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades”.
Three said in a statement on Thursday afternoon: “In light of the government’s recently announced sanctions, we have asked Chelsea Football Club to temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from the shirts and around the stadium until further notice.”
The club has obtained a special license that will allow it to fulfill its commitments. Broadcasting and prize money will be frozen and the license is limited to “football-related activities”, leading to bans on signing players and new contracts – and other commercial restrictions. This means Abramovich will need UK government approval before selling the Stamford Bridge club.
Three added: “We recognize that this decision will have an impact on the many Chelsea fans who follow their team with passion. However, we believe that given the circumstances and the government sanction in place, it is the right thing to do.
The Three’s deal is thought to be worth around £40million-a-year to Chelsea and fellow sponsor, shirt sleeve sponsor Hyundai, has said it is reviewing their deal with the club. “Hyundai has become one of football’s strongest partners over the years and the company supports sport as a force for good,” the automaker said in a statement. “We are currently assessing the situation with Chelsea.” The Hyundai deal is said to be worth £10million a year.
Nike, which agreed a 15-year deal worth £900million to supply Chelsea’s kit in 2016, said it was not commenting on Abramovich’s news of the day, or where he might leave the agreement.