Chelsea want Saturday’s English FA Cup quarter-final match at Middlesbrough played behind closed doors after the UK Government blocked the Blues from selling tickets for the Riverside clash.
The Blues have lobbied Government hard over relaxations to the strict operating licence put in place after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by Downing Street.
Russian-Israeli billionaire Abramovich must not profit in the UK under the Government sanctions, and Chelsea are blocked from selling any more tickets in the terms of their new licence.
And after talks with the Government failed to yield a softening on that ticket stance, the Blues have now questioned the FA Cup quarter-final’s “sporting integrity” should Chelsea fans be barred from attending.
“We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough,” read a Chelsea statement.
“In spite of 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 will 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 7:30 p.m. last (Monday) night until 9:30 a.m. yesterday 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.
“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.”
An FA spokesperson said: “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 today.