Chelsea has requested that the FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough on Saturday be played behind closed doors since tickets are no longer available.
Middlesbrough has stated that they will fight the “bizarre” and “ironic” request “to the fullest extent feasible.”
On Wednesday, the Football Association will make a decision.
Middlesbrough, who have already eliminated Premier League giants Manchester United and Tottenham in this year’s competition, claimed the plea had “no validity whatsoever.”
“To suggest that MFC and our fans should be punished as a result is not only extremely unfair, but also without any substance,” Middlesbrough said in a statement.
Chelsea Supporters Trust has asked for the proposal to be withdrawn, claiming that it “does not benefit” any fans.
Chelsea is committed to upholding ‘sporting integrity.’
Chelsea had sold between 500 and 600 tickets out of a total of 4,620 before the club’s license restrictions took effect on March 10th.
The safeguard was put in place to prevent oligarch Roman Abramovich from benefitting from the sale of Chelsea.
After the UK government sanctioned him for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he was barred from becoming a club director, and the sale of Chelsea was postponed.
Chelsea claimed they asked the FA “with considerable reluctance” not to allow fans of any team to attend the game at the Riverside “for reasons of sports integrity.”
“We recognize that such an outcome would have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and its supporters, as well as our own fans who have already purchased the limited number of tickets that were sold before the license was imposed,” Chelsea said in a statement. “However, we believe this is the fairest way to proceed in the current circumstances.”
“Given the reasons for these punishments, Chelsea’s attempt to claim sporting ‘purity’ as justification for the game being played behind closed doors is ironic in the extreme,” Middlesbrough stated.
The FA expects the quarter-final to take place
Chelsea said on Monday that they were speaking with the government on a daily basis “in pursuit of a resolution” to the ticketing issue, and that the Premier League and FA had also spoken to the government about the possible sports integrity issues mentioned.
The government approved an adjustment to Chelsea’s license last week, allowing the club to spend £900,000 on costs for home games, up from £500,000 on Thursday, although away costs are still limited to £20,000 per game.
The government is in “discussions” with Chelsea, according to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, “to look at ways we may perhaps facilitate further ticket sales.”
Huddleston claimed license adjustments taken so far were “exactly to stop” Chelsea from going into administration, speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) event about the role of Russian money in club ownership and sponsorship.
“I would expect the (Middlesbrough) game to go ahead,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham told the DCMS session.
The match will be aired live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website at 17:15 GMT.
“We are striving to ensure that more away fans can attend games,” a government spokeswoman said, “but this must be compatible with the license so that no more revenue can be made.”
Tuchel says his travel demands are more about injuries than bling
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel says his team has made adaptations to travel with a £20,000 budget for the Champions League last 16 second leg against Lille on Wednesday.
The average cost of travel for a Premier League away match is almost £30,000, with European away matches costing even more.
Tuchel explained the players’ travel demands were more concerned with preventing soft-tissue injuries during a busy schedule than with “luxury and bling.”
“This is basically a professional level of sports,” he explained, “where we play two days between matches and our opponent plays four days between matches, and we arrive with the possibility of injury.”
“It is preferable to arrive by airline rather than the bus in this case.
“According to my understanding, we have a plan in place to play in Lille with no excuses.
“It is already more difficult to organize things on a professional level, in the best possible way, for the FA Cup in this regard.
“But we’ll take care of it. We’ll be competitive and fight hard for our success as long as we have shirts and are ‘alive’ as a team. We owe it to those who believe in us.
“We’re in the spotlight, and it’s up to us to make the most of it. We’ll make it happen.”