Chelsea supporters have been urged to stop chanting in support of the club’s owner Roman Abramovich.
Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Technology minister Chris Philp said fans need to remember Abramovich has close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose regime has committed “barbaric acts” in Ukraine.
“I understand why Chelsea fans have some affection for him, but when the regime he is associated with is committing atrocities that is more important than football,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.
“So I would ask them to think very carefully before doing that again because the barbaric acts of the Putin regime which Abramovich has supported is far more important than football.”
Amendments and peace signs
On Friday, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel raised the prospect of his players wearing a “message for peace” on their shirts, after mobile network provider Three suspended its shirt sponsorship deal with Chelsea.
“Maybe the worry is more to find enough shirts that we can play in, with the sanctions,” Tuchel added. “But as long as we have enough shirts, and as long as the bus is full of fuel, we will arrive and we will be competitive.
“This is what everybody can be sure of and this is what we demand of ourselves and when it’s a big storm, you dig in, you are all together and then you stay strong and go through it.
“But messages for peace can never be wrong.”
The sanctions, that were imposed on Thursday, mean Abramovich is currently unable to sell the club, though a special licence granted by the government is allowing Chelsea to keep operating.
Philp says the terms of that licence could be altered to allow a sale to go through.
“As the licence conditions are written today, the sale would not be allowed,” he told Sky News.
“However, if a buyer emerged it would be open to that buyer or to that football club to approach the government and ask for the conditions to be varied in a way that allows that sale to take place.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister later added: “We’re in constant contact with the club and the Premier League over any issues that have been raised through the sanctions and the licence that the Treasury have issued them.
“It’s now up to the club to apply for any amended licence. I believe Chelsea have said that they will do that, and we’ll obviously work with the club and the league to consider any operationally necessary changes.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston held a meeting with the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and three Chelsea fans’ groups on Thursday to discuss the impact of the sanctions and outline the process for the club to apply for an amended licence.
“This application could include proposed amendments on ticket sales,” read an FSA statement.
“The minister indicated that the government will work with the club and leagues to consider changes along these lines. It is for Chelsea FC to give clarity on where any revenues generated will be directed as part of this application.”
Manager sympathy and 20 possible buyers
The American investment firm handling the sale – Raine Group – has stopped the process for now and has attempted to seek clarification on how a potential sale might go ahead.
How quickly the club can be sold once a buyer has been found depends on the government receiving assurances that the proceeds would not go to Abramovich, but securing those assurances could take time.
Those working on the deal on behalf of Abramovich were told that proceeds from the sale would go to a fund for victims of the war in Ukraine. It is understood that the £1.5bn loan from the Russian oligarch will not be deducted from the price.
At the start of the process Abramovich was looking for £3bn for the club, but that was already seen as an inflated price by industry experts before sanctions were imposed.
British property investor Nick Candy is among those still interested in buying Chelsea.
BBC Sport understands there have been no drop-outs from potential investors following Thursday’s news with as many as 20 credible parties still interested.
A spokesperson for Nick Candy said: “We are examining the details of yesterday’s announcement and we are still interested in making a bid.
“Clearly this is a time of great uncertainty for all Chelsea fans. In our view, no-one is the owner of a football club – you are the custodian of it for the fans and the community.”
‘We’re in 2022 and to see this is horrible for everybody’
Premier League managers gave their views on the sanctioning of Abramovich for the first time on Friday.
Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte – now in charge at Tottenham – said: “It’s very sad that this serious situation, this war between Russia and Ukraine, is affecting football and the sporting world.
“To know that Russia athletes are banned from competition is very sad. I think it’s not fair. I know very well the work that they do every day for this competition.
“You have to pay for this situation, I think it’s not right. Honestly, I hoped the situation is going to be solved, because it’s creating a lot of damage. We’re in 2022 and to see this is horrible for everybody.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp sympathised with employees at Chelsea but believes the government was “right” to sanction Abramovich because “he is close” to Putin.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe believes the sanctions will not change how Chelsea perform, while Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers – who previously worked at Chelsea as a youth and reserve-team coach – said Tuchel’s situation is challenging.
“I’ve total empathy for him and for the players, but they’re very professional,” said Rodgers. “They’re an outstanding team and I’m sure they’ll focus on that element between now and the end of the season.”