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Chelsea turns first profit of Abramovich era

Premier League Chelsea have moved into profit for the first time since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought the soccer club in 2003, reporting a small surplus after winning the Champions League in May.

Chelsea said the figures put them in a strong position to comply with UEFA Financial Fair Play rules for the coming seasons. The rules require clubs to curb their losses or risk exclusion from the Champions League, Europe's top competition.

Some commentators had expected clubs funded by wealthy benefactors, such as Chelsea and English champions Manchester City, to be tripped up by the new rules.

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Chelsea had a profit of 1.4 million pounds ($2.2-million) in the financial year to end-June 2012, compared with a loss of 67.7 million pounds a year earlier.

Abramovich, 46, who made his money in the oil and steel industries in post-Soviet Russia, has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into Chelsea.

That funding helped the club to win the English Premier League three times. Abramovich got the trophy he craved above all others when Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich on penalties to win the Champions League in May.

"We had that success on the field this year, as we were the first London team to win the UEFA Champions League, and we enjoyed it off the field as well and this helps us inject financial investment into the team," Chief Executive Ron Gourlay said in a statement.

"The big challenge is always to have a successful team on the field that wins trophies and to make a profit at the same time."

Chelsea also won the English FA Cup last May and their successes helped to increase turnover by 15 percent to 255.7 million pounds, which the club said made them the fifth largest club in Europe in terms of revenue.

Manchester United, the most commercially successful English club, had revenues of 320 million pounds last year.

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Abramovich converted 166.6 million pounds of debt into equity over the course of the year, making Chelsea debt free. United fans complain that interest payments on the club's debt make it harder for them to compete with rivals.

Profits of 28.8 million pounds made on transfer dealings helped Chelsea to return to the black.

High-profile departures from Chelsea last season included Alex to Paris St Germain, and Yuri Zhirkov who went to wealthy Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala. Chelsea signed Gary Cahill and Juan Mata in the period but such transfer costs are spread over several years depending on the length of their contracts.

Summer signings including Oscar and Eden Hazard were not included in the latest set of results, a club spokesman said.

Financial results from Manchester City will be closely watched to see if their Premier League triumph has helped them to cut their losses.

City, bankrolled by cash from Abu Dhabi, last November reported a loss of almost 200 million pounds in 2010-11, the highest ever in English soccer. The club has not said when it will publish its latest annual financial results.

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