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Gary Neville reacts to Roman Abramovich selling Chelsea after "cowardly" criticism

Gary Neville has been hugely critical of Roman Abramovich's actions over the past week after the Russian billionaire's ownership of Chelsea came under intense scrutiny

Gary Neville believes Roman Abramovich’s attempts to sell Chelsea have highlighted the wider issues around ownership in English football.

Neville made headlines on Sunday when he claimed Abramovich was trying to “con” fans with a “cowardly” attempt to distance himself from the club by relinquishing “stewardship” of Chelsea.

Abramovich has since confirmed that he is trying to sell Chelsea after his ownership of the club was thrown into the spotlight by Russia ’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian billionaire, who bought Chelsea in 2003 for around £140million, has insisted he is trying to sell because it is “in the best interests of the club” and said the “net proceeds” would go towards the Ukraine victims.

Neville has now added further context to his criticism of Abramovich , explaining his objection towards the Russian is not personal, but part of his wider objection to what he sees as systemic problems with the game’s ownership rules.

“They’re going to have a lot of affinity for Roman Abramovich, Chelsea fans, and rightly so,” he told Sky Sports News .

“I think I’ve got most of them on my timeline in the last couple of days since I gave them a hard time over his charity’s trustees comments on Sunday at the final.

“But the reality of it is, Chelsea will be OK. Obviously he’s got the money.

“Irrespective of whether you like the idea of Russian money coming into English football, or not, Roman Abramovich has been a very good owner for Chelsea Football Club.”

Neville then launched into a wide-ranging critique of English football, which took in the owners of Newcastle United, Bury and Derby County, among other things.

“There are worse owners that are English,” he continued. “My hometown club of Bury had a terrible owner who sent them bust. Derby’s owners at this moment in time are British.

“So, we’ve got an issue in football around ownership generally, not just international ownership or ownership coming from money that we may not like.

“What I would say is that football is on the brink here and it has been for a few years, and that’s why I’ve called for an independent regulator.

“I’m not against Saudi Arabian money coming into Newcastle – and I know Newcastle fans have welcomed coming in to transform their football club because they had a very poor English owner.

“However, what I believe the right of all football fans in this country, including Newcastle fans is, what was the criteria that the Saudi Arabians had to get through to be accepted into English football?

“Where was the independence? Where was the transparency? The Premier League at this moment in time is a closed shop around these matters. It’s not good enough and it’s coming hurtling at them like you would not believe.

“They can’t separate sport and these societal and political issues anymore. They are coming to have to stand up and accept that, while they don’t believe they are a public body – and they’re not in essence because they’re a private company, owned by the 20 clubs – ultimately they are going to be viewed like that and they’re going to have to act and behave in that manner.

“It’s coming towards them very quickly and they’re going to have to shape up. I know that they’re turning a blind eye to the fan-led review that’s come out, but they are going to have to step up to the plate soon, the Premier League, because these issues are encircling them week by week, month by month and year by year.

"This is just another one this week with Roman Abramovich.”