Chelsea’s request to play their FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough behind closed doors has been widely mocked by fans on social media – with some left stunned by the ‘audacity’ of the club.
The Blues have been left in a crisis after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the Government in the wake of Ukraine’s invasion by Russia – with the club unable to sign players, agree new contracts, sell tickets or merchandise and their spending on away travel limited.
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.
With only season ticket holders able to attend home games – and no fans allowed into away games – Chelsea then requested to play their quarter-final tie at Boro in an empty stadium on grounds of ‘sporting integrity’.
Football supporters have been baffled by Chelsea’s request, poking fun at the term ‘sporting integrity’ – citing the club’s participation in the European Super League and revelations from a bombshell BBC documentary accusing Abramovich of being ‘Putin’s money man’.
One fan was shocked by Chelsea’s ‘audacity’, claiming the club should be kicked out of the tournament.
Chelsea have been slammed for requesting to stage their FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough behind closed doors after they were banned from selling tickets
The Blues have been left in limbo after owner Roman Abramovich’s assets were frozen
The Blues were mocked on social media for insisting that ‘sporting integrity’ would be at risk if they could not have fans present in the stadium
‘Here you go Boro fans… the audacity of a top English Premier league team. Shocking. Shot em out.’
Another said Chelsea had displayed a ‘brass neck’ to make the request and joked they should instead be forced to play a squad with the same value as Boro’s.
‘Hahahaha how about Chelsea only play a squad with the same value as Middlesbrough. The brass neck of this. Sporting integrity.’
Another said: ‘I can’t believe that this is serious.’
One Twitter user wrote: ‘Translation: Chelsea request for Middlesbrough fans to not be allowed to support their team for something Chelsea’s owner has been punished for. It’s almost surreal in its brazenness.’
‘Request a game to be played behind closed doors and rob a Championship club of the finances involved? Stay classy Chelsea,’ read another post.
And one user simply wrote: ‘Kick Chelsea out of the FA cup for that request alone.’
It came after a lengthy statement on Chelsea’s website expressing its disappointment to be blocked from selling tickets, saying while it recognised playing behind closed doors would have a big impact on Middlesbrough, it wanted to arrange ‘the fairest way of proceeding’.
‘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.
Chelsea insist they want ‘the fairest way of proceeding’ ahead of their FA Cup quarter-final tie
‘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.
‘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.
Chelsea have already been engulfed in a crisis and will have to travel to North Yorkshire via a 10-hour round-trip coach journey
‘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 hit back at Chelsea for their request, telling the club they ‘do not seem to understand the seriousness of the situation they are in’ – criticising them for ‘threatening Middlesbrough and the rest of the Football League’.
A senior source said: ‘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.
Thomas Tuchel’s men have had to deal with a number of off-the-pitch distractions this month
‘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.’
Chelsea Supporters’ Trust urged 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.’
Chelsea’s problems are already mounting up off the pitch – with manager Thomas Tuchel confirming the club will not be able to fly to the match, instead being forced to take a 10-hour round trip on a coach up to Teeside.
The club are limited to spending £20,000 on away travel – which would not cover the cost of hiring a plane to fly the team up north.