Chelsea slammed by the Government for asking FA to ban MIDDLESBROUGH’S fans from Saturday’s Cup tie


Chelsea have been derided by their own fans, the government and their FA Cup opponents Middlesbrough after requesting for Saturday’s quarter-final to be played behind closed doors because their supporters can’t attend due to sanctions on Roman Abramovich.

The Blues were handed a special licence by the Government last week after owner Abramovich’s assets were frozen due to his link to Russian president Vladimir Putin, a seismic move which has left the club in limbo. 

As a result of Abramovich’s sanctioning, they are currently unable to buy or sell players, renew player contracts, spend more than £20,000 on match travel and sell tickets or merchandise.

Only season ticket holders and fans who have already purchased tickets can attend matches while Abramovich remains owner, meaning supporters will be absent for foreseeable matches.

Chelsea have been in talks with the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation over amending their licence to allow new tickets to be sold for Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Middlesbrough, but the club have revealed those discussions were unsuccessful.

And after missing the deadline to purchase away tickets, they are now remarkably calling for the game to be played behind closed doors at the Riverside Stadium.

Chelsea have announced they cannot sell tickets for their FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough

‘We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough,’ a Chelsea statement says.

‘Despite engaging in extensive discussions with the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), the deadline to purchase away tickets has passed without appropriate amendments being made to the Government licence which would allow a full allocation of Chelsea supporters to attend. 

‘Executives at Middlesbrough had been kind enough to extend their deadline for ticket sales and stadium allocation from 7.30pm last night until 9.30am this morning.

‘It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead, 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.

The Blues have been left in limbo after owner Roman Abramovich's assets were frozen

The Blues have been left in limbo after owner Roman Abramovich’s assets were frozen

They are now unable to sell new match tickets while Abramovich remains owner of the club

They are now unable to sell new match tickets while Abramovich remains owner of the club

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Chelsea are now calling for Saturday's clash with Boro to be played behind closed doors

Chelsea are now calling for Saturday’s clash with Boro to be played behind closed doors

‘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.

‘We will continue to discuss the issue of ticket sales with OFSI as there are a number of fixtures still to be played this season and we hope to reach a resolution.’

The Government, and then Middlesbrough themselves, issued a swift response to Chelsea’s statement, slamming the club for ‘threatening Middlesbrough and the rest of the Football League’.

A senior Government source told Playbook: ‘We are working around the clock to enable Chelsea to continue operating as a club in the interest of the fans. This statement threatening Middlesbrough and the rest of the football league shows they do not seem to understand the seriousness of the situation they are in, being owned by an entity that has been sanctioned because of links to a person responsible for appalling acts in Ukraine.

‘We are not opposed to Chelsea having fans at games in the long run, but we will not allow money from ticket sales to flow to a sanctioned entity.

‘Chelsea should spend less time worrying about having a few thousand fans at one game, and focus on moving their club into the hands of someone who isn’t linked to a warmonger.’ 

Middlesbrough then added: ‘All concerned are well aware of the reasons Chelsea have been sanctioned and that this has nothing to do with Middlesbrough Football Club.

‘To suggest as result that MFC and our fans should be penalised is not only grossly unfair but without any foundation. Given the reasons for these sanctions, for Chelsea to seek to invoke sporting “integrity” as reason for the game being played behind closed doors is ironic in the extreme.

‘We currently await formal notification from the FA of the next steps but rest assured MFC will resist Chelsea’s actions in the strongest terms.’

Middlesbrough have already sold out their full allocation for this weekend's cup tie

Middlesbrough have already sold out their full allocation for this weekend’s cup tie

But Chelsea believe it should be played behind closed doors due to 'sporting integrity'

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But Chelsea believe it should be played behind closed doors due to ‘sporting integrity’

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust are urging the Government to amend their licence and allow as many fans as possible to attend games, saying in a statement: ‘The CST has made it clear to the Govt & the Sports Minister that supporters must be able to watch their team. We strongly urge the Government to amend the license & allow supporters to obtain tickets.

‘Playing behind closed doors does not benefit supporters.’ 

They received an allocation of 4,620 tickets for their trip to the Riverside, which has a capacity of 34,742, and have already sold roughly 600 tickets to away season ticket holders and hospitality season ticket holders. 

Middlesbrough have fully sold out their allocation for this weekend’s FA Cup tie. 

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham was being grilled by a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee at the time the news broke about Chelsea’s request.

When pushed for a response from the parliamentary panel, he said: ‘When we step back and look at what the Government is trying to achieve with the sanctions on Mr Abramovich, it’s clearly to put pressure on Mr Putin.

‘I don’t believe the intention is to prevent Chelsea fans going to games or away fans to come to Stamford Bridge. It’s incredibly complicated to put a sanction in place at short notice and that will all need working through.

‘I think the end-state will be something where the Government lends a licence to allow fans to go to games. I think that hasn’t been possible in time for this weekend.

‘What Chelsea are going to do is appeal to the FA Cup committee and that will take a view on what should happen. My personal point of view would be: I would expect the game to go ahead but I can’t say more than that.

‘It could prejudice any discussions that are going on at the moment. There’s a due process to be followed and I’m sure they get to the right conclusion. I can’t say more to prejudice the outcome of that proceeding.’

An FA spokesperson added: ‘We are aware of Chelsea FC’s request to play their Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final tie against Middlesbrough FC behind closed doors. The matter will be discussed at the Professional Game Board meeting tomorrow.’ 

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The extent of Chels’ea’s sanctions means they are even prevented from selling free tickets for club legend Peter Bonetti’s memorial service at Stamford Bridge on Friday 18 March, as it is still technically classed as a transaction.

Yet, tickets are not the only issue Chelsea have regarding Saturday’s game at Middlesbrough, as Thomas Tuchel’s side are also facing a 10-hour round-trip coach journey to North Yorkshire. 

The Blues will have to travel to North Yorkshire via a 10-hour round-trip coach journey

The Blues will have to travel to North Yorkshire via a 10-hour round-trip coach journey 

Thomas Tuchel insists he and his players are prepared to do whatever is necessary

Thomas Tuchel insists he and his players are prepared to do whatever is necessary

Their next outing comes away at Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday night, and with travel arrangements already in place before sanctions were imposed those plans are allowed to remain intact.

Travel for Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough had not already been arranged, however, meaning the £20,000 budget would not cover the cost of hiring a plane.

Tuchel and Co must therefore embark on a 10-hour coach journey to the Riverside, which the Chelsea head coach insists they are prepared to do.

‘We want to find solutions, we want to play the match on Saturday as much as we want to play in the Champions League,’ he said.

‘We have a framework to play in Lille with no excuses. It is difficult to arrange things in the best way possible for the FA Cup, but we will deal with it. 

‘It isn’t about luxury and bling-bling. This is just a pro level of sports, where we play with two days between matches with our opponent having four days between matches and we arrive with the possibilities of injuries. 

‘For that, it is better to arrive with a plan rather than a bus.’





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