Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson has ripped into Chelsea and branded the club ‘rotten’ for requesting to play their FA Cup quarter-final tie behind closed doors on Saturday.
The Blues, who have been left in a state of limbo after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK Government last week, announced on Tuesday that they cannot sell any new tickets for their trip to Middlesbrough this weekend.
With Abramovich’s British assets frozen, they are currently unable to sell tickets or merchandise, complete any incoming or outgoing transfers, renew player contracts and spend more than £20,000 on match travel.
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson has hit out at Chelsea and branded the club ‘rotten’
While they have been granted a special licence by the Government to continue football operations, Chelsea were unable to tweak that licence to enable them to sell tickets for Saturday’s clash with Boro.
The west London club have released a controversial statement urging the FA to make their quarter-final tie a behind-closed-doors fixture at the Riverside, claiming doing so is now a matter of ‘sporting integrity’.
Yet Gibson has issued a fiery response to the European and world champions, insisting ‘Chelsea and sporting integrity don’t belong in the same sentence’.
The Boro chief told The Telegraph: ‘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.
The UK Government sanctioning Roman Abramovich has left the Blues in a state of limbo
They are unable to sell any new tickets for their FA Cup clash with Middlesbrough on Saturday
Chelsea have issued a controversial statement calling for it to be played behind closed doors
‘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.’
Middlesbrough have already sold their full allocation of tickets for Saturday’s Cup tie at the Riverside, which has a capacity of 34,742, while Chelsea have offloaded roughly 600 tickets from their allocation of 4,620 to away and hospitality season ticket holders.
Gibson says the hosts will be submitting a complaint to the FA in due course, labelling Chelsea’s behaviour ‘abhorrent’.
‘We haven’t made our feelings known to the FA or Chelsea yet, because Chelsea haven’t contacted me,’ he added.
But Gibson (L) has issued a fiery response after discovering Chelsea’s outlandish request
He has called for Blues counterpart Bruce Buck to depart Stamford Bridge as a result
‘They haven’t had the courtesy of telling me this was going to happen, they just took it to the FA. The game is this weekend!
‘These sanctions placed upon Chelsea were done so by the Government, not by football, not by Middlesbrough.
‘It’s got to be kicked out and it’s abhorrent. This rotten football club, Chelsea. We pick up the newspapers and read about Abramovich and the way he conducted his life, and we see what’s going on in Ukraine, and it’s beyond comprehension. It really is.’
Middlesbrough have also released an official statement of their own condemning Chelsea, which reads: ‘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.
Middlesbrough have also released their own official statement condemning Chelsea’s move
‘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.’
Chelsea have also been criticised by the Government for their request, with a senior source telling Playbook: ‘We are working around the clock to enable Chelsea to continue operating as a club in the interest of the fans.
‘This statement threatening Middlesbrough and the rest of the football league shows they do not seem to understand the seriousness of the situation they are in, being owned by an entity that has been sanctioned because of links to a person responsible for appalling acts in Ukraine.
‘We are not opposed to Chelsea having fans at games in the long run, but we will not allow money from ticket sales to flow to a sanctioned entity.
‘Chelsea should spend less time worrying about having a few thousand fans at one game, and focus on moving their club into the hands of someone who isn’t linked to a warmonger.’