Crisis-stricken Chelsea are set to face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup
The Riverside Stadium could be empty when Chelsea play there © Alex Dodd / CameraSport via Getty Images
Premier League giants Chelsea have asked for their FA Cup quarterfinal at Championship Middlesbrough to be played without fans after failing in a bid to ease ticket restrictions imposed as part of UK Government sanctions against Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
The Champions League holders are not allowed to sell matchday tickets under a licence placed on the club by the government because of Abramovich’s alleged close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a statement, Chelsea said they had not persuaded the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) to allow the full allocation of Blues supporters the club had wanted to be able to buy tickets for the game in north-east England on Saturday.
“It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead,” the club added.
'We thank Middlesbrough for extending their ticket deadline but we want the game behind closed doors because we can't have away fans'.What a laughable statement. As if Chelsea's situation should see Middlesbrough fans miss out on an FA Cup quarter-final. https://t.co/k34nS4Ys2M
— Elliott Jackson (@_ElliottJackson) March 15, 2022
Request a game to be played behind closed doors and rob a Championship club of the finances involved?Stay classy Chelsea
— Danny Clark (@ClarkRDanny) March 15, 2022
“However, it is with extreme reluctance that we are asking the FA board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity.
“Chelsea FC recognises that such an outcome would have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and its supporters, as well as our own fans who have already bought the limited number of tickets that were sold before the licence was imposed, but we believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances.”
The extraordinary proposal would be a huge blow to Middlesbrough, who have already sold thousands of tickets for the game.
Chelsea could have expected to receive around 5,000 tickets for their supporters at the 34,742-capacity Riverside Stadium.
Chelsea had no issue until the UK government created one
— Eye For Eye💭 (@MosesMosesnmc) March 15, 2022
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham says his personal view is that the game should go ahead in front of fans in Middlesbrough. But then goes on to say it’s not his decision and a committee will decide.
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) March 15, 2022
After winning on penalties at Manchester United in the fourth round, Boro won 1-0 against another of Chelsea’s Premier League rivals, Tottenham, in front of a near-full stadium on March 1.
Chelsea said Middlesbrough had agreed to extend their deadline for ticket sales and stadium allocation until hours before the statement was issued, calling the gesture “kind”.
The request received a mixed response on social media, where some fans accused Chelsea of potentially preventing Middlesbrough from earning hefty gate receipts.
Others argued that blameless Chelsea fans were being made to suffer by the licence and asked whether the appeal would extend to the club’s remaining matches in other competitions this season.
Chelsea’s future has been questioned after Abramovich was barred from completing his proposed sale of the club alongside a range of other restrictions including a ban on selling merchandise.
Manager Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that his expensive squad will have to make the journey of around 250 miles to Middlesbrough by coach because of spending limits handed to the club around away travel.
The ticket clampdown means that only season ticket holders will be able to attend home games at Stamford Bridge until the licence is reviewed at the end of May.
The government is said to be keen to facilitate a swift sale of the club to suitable buyers under special dispensation.
The Saudi Media Group and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss are among the potential bidders linked with a move for Chelsea.
Abramovich, who has always denied he has done anything to warrant being sanctioned, is not allowed to profit from any sale.
Chelsea are on a four-match winning run following their Premier League win at home to Newcastle on Sunday and have beaten three teams from divisions below them on their FA Cup run so far.
Tuchel takes the eight-time FA Cup winners to French side Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday, when they begin the second leg of the round of 16 tie with a 2-0 advantage.
The statement added that Chelsea hoped to reach a resolution by continuing discussions with the OFSI.