Vitesse docked 18 points, relegated amid probe of Abramovich ties

Dutch club Vitesse were docked 18 points on Friday and will be relegated from the Netherlands’ top division while under investigation for ties to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea.

Vitesse said in a statement they will not appeal the punishment imposed by a licensing panel at the Dutch soccer federation. It dropped the team into the second tier for the first time in 35 years.

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Vitesse already were in danger of relegation before their points total was cut to -1 in a distant last place in the Eredivisie standings.

The Dutch federation (KNVB) said Vitesse “repeatedly failed” to meet the demands of its financial license.

Vitesse and their Russian owners had longstanding ties to Chelsea, which Abramovich owned for nearly 20 years. The British government forced a sale of Chelsea after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The KNVB said there were “indications that that Abramovich “has or has had” involvement in the running of Vitesse along with “risks” that sanctions had been violated.

In March 2022, Vitesse were playing in the Europa Conference League round of 16 against eventual champions Roma. The Dutch club’s fortunes have declined since, and former Netherlands and Barcelona midfielder Phillip Cocu resigned as coach in November.

An investigation by British newspaper The Guardian last year alleged Abramovich secretly funded Vitesse with more than $100 million.

Chelsea under Abramovich’s ownership loaned a long list of players to Vitesse over several years, including Nemanja Matic and Mason Mount.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.