LONDON: With Chelsea in turmoil after sanctions imposed on Russian owner Roman Abramovich, the somber mood among fans ahead of Sunday’s game against Newcastle reflects the growing crisis at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s first home game since Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government recalled a golden era that may soon be a distant memory for Blues fans.
Funded by Abramovich’s billions, the Premier League club have won 19 major trophies since the Russian took over in 2003.
A banner often hung from the Matthew Harding stand at one end of Stamford Bridge hails ‘the Roman Empire’.
But Chelsea’s reign as reigning European and club world champions could crumble due to fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government prevented Abramovich from profiting from Chelsea and in doing so prohibited the club from signing players and renewing contracts, while severely limiting their sources of income.
Chelsea shirt sponsor Three suspended their £40million deal on Thursday and Hyundai became the second sponsor to suspend their relationship on Saturday.
Abramovich was disqualified as a club manager by the Premier League over the weekend as the chaos engulfing the club showed no signs of abating.
A haemorrhage of cash with an estimated monthly wage bill of £28m, there are fears Chelsea’s ability to survive the potential financial meltdown if a new buyer is not found soon.
Inevitably, emotions run high among Chelsea fans who have given so much of their time and money to the club.
Those sentiments were made clear by a graffiti message reading ‘Leave our club alone’ in red paint on a door outside the bridge.
The signs of Chelsea’s predicament were easy to spot.
The club’s megastore was closed with a message apologizing for the ‘inconvenience’ taped to a shop window, while match programs were not for sale.
With Chelsea banned from selling match tickets since sanctions, a sign near the main entrance announced ‘no tickets available’ for the team’s upcoming home game against Brentford.