Roman Abramovich

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters believes it is ‘difficult’ to claim the Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea had a positive impact on English football.

Though the Stamford Bridge club won five Premier League titles under Abramovich’s ownership, the Russian billionaire’s links to Vladimir Putin have cast a long shadow over his legacy following the invasion of Ukraine.

The 19-year Abramovich era came to an end earlier this year with the £4.25billion sale of Chelsea to American businessman Todd Boehly, the co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

The UK government had sanctioned Abramovich following Russia’s invasion and frozen his assets, forcing the sale of Chelsea.

‘It’s difficult to say now, with hindsight, that it’s all been good, given what has transpired over the last six-and-a-half months,’ Masters said ahead of the new Premier League campaign.

‘I think if you ask Chelsea fans, they would give you a different answer.

‘I think the situation we ended with has given the sport some challenges we’ve got to meet.

‘Ultimately, there wasn’t an owners’ and directors’ test when Abramovich took ownership of Chelsea, so I suppose the answer to the question is, had there been that in place, what would have happened and what safeguards do we need to build in for the future?

‘[There is] a rolling test, yes. Prevention is better than cure, isn’t it?

‘There wasn’t then, there is now, it’s going to change and part of that actually is probably going to be the strengthening of the annual test.’

The owners’ test has come under scrutiny again in the past 12 months with the takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund [PIF], which was sanctioned by the Premier League despite serious concerns over the Saudi government’s human rights record.

Boehly’s Chelsea takeover was approved just 24 hours before the government’s May 31 deadline for the club to be sold.

Masters added: ‘You’re in unique circumstances, nothing like this has happened before.

‘There was obviously a genuine concern the sale wouldn’t take place in the timeframe that was available.

‘That didn’t happen thankfully. A lot of people worked extremely hard on it at the club’s end, the government’s end and the Premier League’s end to make sure things were running as smoothly as possible.

‘All I can say is we’re very pleased that it happened, obviously.’

The Abramovich era at Chelsea also saw the club win the Champions League twice, plus the Europa League twice, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

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