Chelsea have found themselves backed into a corner since sanctions were imposed on Roman Abramovich by the UK government, with shirt sponsors Three among the club partners to have put sponsorship deals on hold.
The agreement with the telecommunications giants is said to be worth around £40 million ($52m) per season to the Blues, but any further payments have been suspended due to links between the Blues’ current owners and Russian president Vladimir Putin – who has sanctioned an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
Three has requested that its branding be removed from matchday apparel during a period of considerable upheaval in west London, but its logo remains as prominent as ever for now. Why is that? GOAL takes a look…
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What has Three had to say?
A spokesperson for Three said on March 10: “In light of the government’s recently announced sanctions, we have requested Chelsea Football Club temporarily suspend our sponsorship of the club, including the removal of our brand from shirts and around the stadium until further notice.
“We recognise that this decision will impact the many Chelsea fans who follow their team passionately. However, we feel that given the circumstances, and the Government sanction that is in place, it is the right thing to do.
“As a mobile network, the best way we can support the people of Ukraine is to ensure refugees arriving in the UK from the conflict and customers currently in Ukraine can stay connected to the people who matter to them.
“Therefore, we are offering connectivity packages to all Ukrainians arriving in the UK, and those in Ukraine.”
Why do Chelsea still have Three on their shirts?
After seeing Abramovich’s assets frozen, as he endeavours to push through a sale of the club, Chelsea are unable to move cash around operationally in order to address areas of financial need.
As a result, no changes are being made to the jerseys they wear in the Premier League and Champions League.
The Blues have continued to don the Three logo in domestic outings against Norwich and Newcastle, while they are due to be in continental action on Wednesday when taking in a trip to Lille.
A polite request from a leading commercial partner is having to be ignored as the funds required to make changes to the club’s on-field profile are not accessible at present.
As the Blues continue to operate under a special licence from the UK government, printing new shirts is just not feasible at this time.
Discussions are, however, taking place between Chelsea and kit suppliers Nike in an effort to find a resolution that suits all parties.
Unlike Three, as well as Hyundai and Zapp, Nike continues to honour its sponsorship deal with the reigning champions of Europe – with that agreement estimated to be worth around £60m ($78m) a season.