Chelsea FC: Another sponsor bites the dust
The GIST: The rollercoaster continues for Chelsea after the U.K. sanctioned club owner and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich on Thursday. Another major sponsor — Hyundai — is suspending its deal with the club, while regulatory bodies are cutting Chelsea and Abramovich off from funds and power. It takes a village.
The sponsors: Hyundai, the sleeve sponsor for the women’s and men’s teams, backed out of the $13 million annual partnership on Saturday. The company is following the lead of telecommunications company Three, which suspended its sponsorship deal, including front-of-jersey and stadium marketing, last Thursday.
- A pair of sponsors plan to stick it out, though. After signing a 15-year deal averaging $78 million annually in 2015, Nike will continue its partnership with the club, and training-wear sponsor Trivago will also stand by its 2021 multiyear deal.
The continuing fallout: Sponsors aside, Chelsea and Abramovich are getting cut off as regulatory bodies step in. Though the club can still access its bank accounts, on Friday Barclays temporarily froze its credit cards. The U.K. government, though, increased Chelsea’s budget to host games from $655K to $1.2 million.
- As for Abramovich, the Premier League officially banned him from running the club on Saturday. The sale of the club has officially resumed, but without his involvement.
Zooming out: The impact that sanctioning Abramovich has on Chelsea shows the price of sportswashing. His ties to the Russian government have cost the club sponsorship money and, depending on the eventual sale price, value. Even before the sanctions, potential buyers were not bidding near Abramovich’s $4 billion asking price.
- Before the war on Ukraine, Abramovich’s unchecked influence meant brands — and fans — were comfortable with his involvement. It might take a village to kick Abramovich out of sports, but it will require a global effort to end sportswashing.