PR disaster as Chelsea forced to withdraw “bizarre” statement before FA Cup tie vs Middlesbrough
FA confirmed that talks are continuing with the club to find the best solution possible
Picture Courtesy of : Anna Meyer
Thomas Tuchel during Chelsea's Champions League match against Zenit
If the FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Middlesbrough was going to be interesting because of the situation the London club currently find themselves in, today’s happenings have only added extra spice to the occasion.
In what is being termed as a PR disaster, Chelsea have been forced to make a 180-degree turn and withdraw their request to hold their FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough behind closed doors due to the London club being barred from selling tickets.
Middlesbrough didn’t hold back earlier in their statement in response to Chelsea’s request. Chris Wilder’s Championship side, who eliminated Premier League giants Manchester United and Tottenham to secure a quarter-final clash against the reigning European champions, rightly felt aggrieved at the potential treatment of their fans.
“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. 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.” read the official statement.
Chelsea, who believe they are being hard done by after being banned from selling tickets and having a £20,000 cap set for away games travel, released a statement asking the FA for the game to be played behind closed doors for the sake of “sporting integrity”.
“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.” read Chelsea’s statement.
The request was met with predictable backlash from the wider football community, with even the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust making it clear they wanted the club to withdraw their statement. Former player Graeme Le Saux described the statement as “embarrassing” and “arrogant”.