Middlesbrough have branded Chelsea’s attempts to force their FA Cup quarter-final to be played behind closed doors as ‘bizarre’ while club chairman Steve Gibson has claimed the Blues are “fuelled by corrupt money”.
Chelsea have asked for Middlesbrough supporters to be excluded from the Riverside for Saturday’s FA clash between the two sides.
Chelsea are currently prohibited from selling tickets due to sanctions imposed on the club’s owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich because of the Russian war on Ukraine.
Season ticket holders for Stamford Bridge and those who had already bought tickets are still permitted to use them but as the FA Cup clash and away games are outside of the season ticket benefits, no further tickets are being made available.
Reports claim that Chelsea had already sold “500-600 tickets” before the sanctions took hold.
The Blues had appealed to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation to be allowed to sell their entire away ticket allocation for the clash with Middlesbrough but were unsuccessful in their efforts.
As a result they have opted to take the extraordinary step of asking the FA to ban Middlesbrough’s supporters from their own ground for the clash, ‘in the interests of fairness’.
Middlesbrough have already sold all of their available tickets for their home fixture and in a strongly worded statement, insisted they would resist any efforts keep their supporters out of the ground.
The statement read: “We are aware of Chelsea’s request to have Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup sixth round tie played behind closed doors and find their suggestion both bizarre and without any merit whatsoever.
“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.
Club chairman Steve Gibson went even further as he dismissed Chelsea’s efforts as ‘pathetic’.
Speaking to The Times, Gibson said: “I can’t believe it. Sporting integrity and Chelsea do not belong in the same sentence. For 19 years corrupt money has fuelled Chelsea’s success.
“If they were to beat us in the FA Cup, with no fans there, what would that do to the integrity of the competition? Are they going to play all their Premier League games behind closed doors too? This is pathetic by Chelsea.”