It’s the biggest price to pay for a football team, and for a while it was the biggest price for any sports team around the world. And the huge amount of revenue has gone into setting up an organization that is one of the largest humanitarian charities ever founded.
But 13 months after the British government forced the sale of Chelsea FC following sanctions against Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich, the charity has yet to be set up. Not a single cent of $3.1bn (£2.5bn) has been spent for its intended purpose. Providing aid to victims of the Ukrainian war.
The person chosen to head the as-yet-unnamed charity, which is well behind schedule, says his efforts are “stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire.”
Former Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund UK Committee, Mike Penrose, said months of consultations with UK officials had so far failed, despite the war escalating and the need for aid only increasing. Who was named a charity leader after saying they weren’t getting anywhere near breakthrough? Government approval is required before transferring money from frozen bank accounts to charities to prevent funds from flowing to Russia or Abramović.
At the heart of the stalemate is the government’s insistence that any funds can only be used within Ukraine’s borders, a decree in agreement with the European Union on how the funds will be distributed. Abramović secured Portuguese citizenship a few years before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, amid uncertain circumstances.
With the support of other non-governmental organizations, Penrose said that by setting limits on spending on victims of the Ukrainian war, the charity could help the millions directly and indirectly affected by the war. He said it would be unable to provide assistance to people as diverse as refugees living in bordering countries. Ukraine and people in the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, who are starving because of the lack of grain in Ukraine.
“We couldn’t help them in the current situation,” Penrose said in a phone interview.
British officials said the proceeds would go to Russia or return to Abramovich, who is believed to have enjoyed decades of “close ties” with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion. I am wary of it. When Abramovich first arrived at Chelsea in 2003, or when he spent the next 20 years pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the team and making Chelsea one of the top football clubs, the relationship between the two was to British people. It didn’t matter. world.
Abramovich first proposed the charity when the club was put up for sale last year.
On May 30, when the government issued the license to sell Chelsea to an American-led group, it said: of such sales will be used for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine.”
“Furthermore, the Treasury will only issue licenses that ensure that such proceeds are used for humanitarian purposes only in Ukraine. In addition, we will work closely with the Portuguese Government and the European Commission.”
Penrose said such a position not only undermines the spirit in which charity was conceived, but also undermines the law.
“All it takes is a little courage and the position of the British government that it will do the right thing and help all the victims of the war in Ukraine, knowing full well that it cannot send war to Russians or to Russia. “Or whatever people might worry about,” he said.
Publicly, the government is largely tight-lipped about this holdup. When asked about the issue, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley recently said: You need complete reassurance that that is the case. “
At last year’s sale, some of Chelsea’s bidders also expressed concern that funds promised by Abramovich for “all the victims” of the Ukrainian war would be used to set up a new foundation.
During the months of back and forth, Mr Penrose communicated with civil servants but not Mr Cleverley or other cabinet ministers – breaking the stalemate in what appeared to be political Officials are the key, he argues, bureaucratic.
“This is one of the things that annoys me a little bit,” he said. “We have repeatedly requested even phone calls with the ministers in charge, and they keep saying ‘yes, yes, yes,’ but we never understand. I’m not sure if that’s a priority or if they’re avoiding the issue. “
A foreign ministry spokesperson will only say that the funds remain frozen and that a new license must be issued to release the funds to the foundation.
But it wasn’t just Mr Penrose and staff associated with the foundation who put pressure on the British government, but potential recipients of the money as well.
James Denslow, Head of Conflict and Humanitarian Policy at Save the Children UK, said: “It’s ridiculous that Chelsea could sell in a matter of weeks, but when it comes to releasing desperately needed money, they get stuck in the weeds.” said.
He supported Penrose’s assessment of where and how the money should be spent. “The impact of the war in Ukraine goes beyond borders,” said Denselo.
The comments come at a high-level international conference to discuss Ukraine’s reconstruction being held in London the same week, at which British Prime Minister Rishi Snack will address and US Secretary of State Anthony J. Brinken will also attend. is. Penrose said the event could help bring new urgency to the release of stalled foundation funds.
Denslow warned that there was a risk that funds would be overwhelmed by reconstruction costs rather than the original humanitarian needs.
Global charity Oxfam is also calling for a break in the impasse. Oxfam Britain’s head of policy, Pauline Chekti, suggested the need was most urgent for several African countries suffering from food shortages linked to the conflict in Ukraine.
“I sincerely hope that the politics that voluntarily prevent families in South Sudan or Somalia from buying their next meal will not delinquent the funds,” Chekti said. “It would be an outrageous and scandalous act.”