Chelsea have requested their FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough be played behind closed doors “for matters of sporting integrity” after confirming they will be unable to sell tickets for the game at the Riverside Stadium.
The club is unable to sell tickets under the operating licence imposed on them after owner Roman Abramovich was hit by Government sanctions last week.
Chelsea say they recognise the impact playing their quarter-final tie behind closed doors would have on Middlesbrough but “believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances”.
They say they have made the request to the FA “with extreme reluctance” after being unable to sell their full allocation of 4,620 tickets.
A Chelsea statement said: “We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough.
“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.
“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 special licence imposed on Chelsea permits existing ticket holders to attend matches but new sales, including home and away matchday tickets, are not allowed.
The measure was introduced to stop Abramovich from profiting.
Chelsea are lobbying the Government for alterations to their special operating licence.
MP Nigel Huddleston said on Tuesday that the Governement would not allow Chelsea to go out of business.
“The absolute opposite of what you suggest,” he said when questioned by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. “The actions we’ve taken and licence given is precisely to stop this happening.”