Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich finally ends Stamford Bridge match exile

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Roman Abramovich - Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich finally ends Stamford Bridge match exile - GETTY IMAGES
Roman Abramovich - Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich finally ends Stamford Bridge match exile - GETTY IMAGES

Roman Abramovich has attended his first Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge in more than three years.

The Russian billionaire was at the stadium, where his presence was not picked up by the television cameras, for Sunday’s 1-1 draw in the Premier League against Manchester United.

There had been an expectation that Abramovich would go to last Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Juventus having travelled to London as he made a rare visit to the stadium over last weekend.

Abramovich was there to host Isaac Herzog, the Israel president, for a small event to campaign against anti-Semitism attended by around 50 people. Abramovich later returned to Moscow, and so was not in London, to fulfil a prior charity engagement.

The event took place at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art which was founded by Abramovich and his now former wife, Dasha Zhukova, who is an influential figure on the international art scene.

Abramovich then returned to London and watched Chelsea live at Stamford Bridge for the first time since a delay over his application for a new UK visa led to him withdrawing it in 2018. Although the importance of his attendance is being played down, it feels like a significant moment given the issues which arose when Britain reviewed the long-term visas of wealthy Russians in the wake of the poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Abramovich became the most high-profile target of the UK government’s action on visas, although the reason for the delay on the renewal was never explained to him.

Since then he has taken out Israeli citizenship and there have been doubts over whether or not he is allowed to work in England. However, it is understood there are no restrictions on him watching Chelsea, the club he bought in 2003 and has turned into a European superpower.

It is unclear as to whether Abramovich, who last saw Chelsea live in the Champions League final in Porto in late May, took the opportunity to meet with head coach Thomas Tuchel. It appears he was determined to make his visit as low-key as possible and it remains to be seen how often he will now return to the stadium.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will have to reschedule two Premier League games and possibly an FA Cup tie after the Club World Cup was confirmed for February. They will travel to the United Arab Emirates for the re-scheduled tournament, which was originally to be held in Japan, between February 3 to 12.

The timing means Chelsea’s away match at Brighton and home fixture against Arsenal will be moved plus an FA Cup fourth-round tie should they make it that far.

As Champions League winners, Chelsea will enter the Club World Cup at the semi-final stage where they will face Asian champions Al Hilal, UAE champions Al Jazira or Auckland City who are Oceania representatives. Recently-crowned Copa Libertadores winners, Brazilian club Palmeiras, will face African champions Al Ahly or Mexico’s Monterrey in the other semi-final.

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