Mobile giant Three has suspended its £40m sponsorship of Chelsea Football Club following the UK’s sanction of owner Roman Abramovich this morning.
A Three spokesperson said this afternoon: “In light of the government’s recently announced sanctions, we have requested Chelsea Football Club temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from shirts and around the stadium until further notice.
“We recognise that this decision will impact the many Chelsea fans who follow their team passionately. However, we feel that given the circumstances, and the Government sanction that is in place, it is the right thing to do.
“As a mobile network, the best way we can support the people of Ukraine is to ensure refugees arriving in the UK from the conflict and customers currently in Ukraine can stay connected to the people who matter to them. Therefore, we are offering connectivity packages to all Ukrainians arriving in the UK, and those in Ukraine.”
It comes after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced on Twitter that the Russian oligarch had been added to the sanction list following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She said Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine involved “new levels of evil by the hour” and comes alongside further government sanctions “against individuals linked to the Russian Government”.
Dorries wrote on Twitter: “Our priority is to hold those who have enabled the Putin regime to account.”
“Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea & its fans. We have been working hard to ensure the club & the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions.
“To ensure the club can continue to compete and operate we are issuing a special licence that will allow fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket holders to attend matches while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club.
“I know this brings some uncertainty, but the Government will work with the league & clubs to keep football being played while ensuring sanctions hit those intended. Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them.”
From a commercial perspective, it is not just Three pulling out that Chelsea have to worry about.
Nike also have a £55m kit deal with the football club, as well as the car manufacturer, Hyundai, and the watchmaker, Hublot.
A Hyundai spokesperson told City A.M.: “Hyundai has become one of the strongest partners in football over the years and the company supports the sport to be a force for good. We are currently assessing the situation with Chelsea FC.”
Nike and Hublot have been contacted for comment by City A.M. about their next steps.