Chelsea’s former owner had deeper tentacles in European soccer than previously known.
Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who was forced to sell his Premier League club by the U.K. government after Russia invaded Ukraine, secretly funded the takeover of Vitesse Arnhem, a top-division club in the Netherlands, according to the Guardian.
The oligarch proceeded to bankroll the Dutch club for years after, loaning it $127.6 million by 2015.
This financial arrangement came to light in what are being called the Oligarch Files, a cache of leaked data from a Cyprus-based offshore service provider called MeritServus.
Former Georgian player Merab Jordania, who is friendly with Abramovich, bought Vitesse Arnhem in 2010. Chelsea loaned many players to Vitesse Arnhem over the next decade.
Jordania, who owns Maltese club Valletta FC, left Vitesse Arnhem in 2013 and was replaced by another associate of Abramovich’s, Alexander Chigirinsky.
Another Russian oligarch close to Abramovich, Valeriy Oyf, became majority shareholder in 2018. In March 2022, Oyf said he would resign from the team’s board and sell his shares in light of the Russia-initiated war.
The Royal Netherlands Football Association investigated the team’s connections to Chelsea in 2010 and 2015 but found no indications of managerial influence over the Dutch club.
Chelsea was taken over by the U.K. government and sold to a group led by Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, and Sparks co-owner Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital in a deal worth more than $5 billion, factoring in the team purchase itself and promised investments.