Middlesbrough have released a punchy statement in response to Chelsea’s request to have Saturday’s FA Cup sixth round tie played behind closed doors, while chairman Steve Gibson has labelled the Blues ‘a rotten football club’.
The Blues have been unable to sell tickets to any future games since sanctions were brought against owner Roman Abramovich last Thursday, with the club operating under a special licence from the UK government.
Chelsea had been locked in talks with the government over changes to this licence but were unable to reach an agreement before the ticket sale deadline.
They responded by posting a statement in which they revealed a request has been made to play the game at the Riverside Stadium behind closed doors for the sake of ‘sporting integrity’.
The statement was met with widespread ridicule and Middlesbrough have not taken kindly to the request.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Boro chairman Gibson has detailed his fury at Chelsea’s frivolous request.
“The words ‘sporting integrity’ and Chelsea don’t belong in the same sentence. For 19 years, money has fuelled the success of Chelsea Football Club,” Gibson said to the Telegraph.
“Our fans, our club, our players and our manager have done nothing wrong. If Chelsea were to succeed, and the game be played behind closed doors, does that mean all the Premier League games have to be played behind closed doors? And all the Champions League games?
“And for what reason? Because of their owner, all the rest of us have to suffer.
“This has to be kicked out and [Chelsea chairman] Bruce Buck should be kicked out.”