The London team says the alleged improper payments “pre-date the club’s current ownership”
Premier League side Chelsea is under investigation by English football authorities over alleged secret transfer-related payments made to “Russian entities” in the Roman Abramovich-era signings of two players in 2013, according to The Times.
The newspaper reported this week that financial records flagged by Chelsea’s current ownership group shows that potentially improper payments were made to unnamed “Russian entities” as part of the transfers of Willian and Samuel Eto’o from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala over a decade ago.
“These allegations pre-date the club’s current ownership,” Chelsea said in a statement. “They concern entities that were allegedly controlled by the club’s former owner and do not relate to any individual who is presently at the club.”
The supposedly illegal payments were reported by Chelsea’s current owners, the US-based Clearlake group fronted by American businessman Todd Boehly, soon after they completed a takeover of the club from Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich in May 2022.
Abramovich, who had controlled Chelsea since 2003, sold the club in a deal worth a reported £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) months after he was sanctioned by the UK government, after being accused of having “clear connections” to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.
Citing sources with knowledge of the case, The Times wrote that seven-figures payments were made by Chelsea to “at least six offshore companies,” potentially related to the transfers of players. The alleged transactions do not appear to have been formally registered with England’s Football Association (The FA), the Premier League or UEFA, possibly breaching financial rules.
While any allegedly illegal payments would have been made under the club’s previous administration, Chelsea could still face Premier League sanctions, the Times says, up to and including heavy fines and points deductions.
In July, Chelsea agreed to pay a €10 million ($10.5 million) fine to UEFA for breaching financial rules in transfers conducted under Abramovich’s ownership between 2012 and 2019. UEFA said the penalty was imposed “for instances of potentially incomplete financial reporting under the club’s previous ownership.”
It was reported in the summer of 2022 that Clearlake had reserved a sum of £100 million ($121 million) from the sale price due to concerns that they may face “unforeseen liabilities.”
Marina Granovskaia, a Russian-Canadian businesswoman who was in charge of transfer activity for much of Chelsea’s era under Abramovich, refused to comment on the club’s transfer activity when asked by The Times in August. Granovskaia left the Premier League side two weeks after the Clearlake takeover was completed, pocketing £35 million ($42.5 million) for “services related to the club’s sale.”