Chelsea had on Tuesday requested “with extreme reluctance” to play Saturday’s FA Cup match at Middlesbrough without an audience. This had everything to do with sanctions indirectly imposed on the London club recently, when the British government froze club owner Roman Abramovich’s assets in the country. As a result, Chelsea are not allowed to sell individual tickets for, for example, cup matches.
Chelsea recognize that this will have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and the club’s supporters, as well as our own fans who have already bought tickets before the restrictions were imposed, but we believe it is the fairest way to handle the game under the current circumstances,” it wrote. However, the request has since been withdrawn after consultation with the FA.
Host Middlesbrough FC previously did not respond mildly to Chelsea’s request. That was called on the club site “bizarre” and “completely unfounded” because everyone knows why sanctions have been imposed against Chelsea and because Middlesbrough has nothing to do with them.
“Proposing that Middlesbrough FC and our fans should be punished is not only grossly unfair but also lacks any foundation,” Middlesbrough said. The club said it was a travesty that Chelsea cited “sporting integrity” to play behind closed doors on Saturday.
Before Chelsea play against Middlesbrough next weekend, wait Wednesday in the Champions League Lille OSC. The Londoners are in a good starting position due to the 2-0 win at home, but it remains to be seen what influence the unrest surrounding the club will have on the team.
In any case, Chelsea travels differently than usual for a European away game. “There are restrictions and we have to deal with that,” says trainer Thomas Tuchel. “We have had to make adjustments, in terms of the number of staff members that come along, how many hotel rooms we reserve and how we have to get somewhere for a game. That has worked as far as I know. We can travel at a professional level, because it’s not about luxury and bling-bling for a while.”
Tuchel emphasized that there is no reason to apologize for the trip to and the match in Lille. “As long as we have shirts, are spry, arrive with our players and act as a team, we will fight for success and hard, because we owe that to the people who support us.”