Chelsea have asked for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough to be played behind closed doors because their fans can no longer buy tickets.
The government issued a licence to allow Chelsea to continue playing after freezing the assets of Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
Under the terms, Chelsea are not allowed to sell tickets to any matches.
Middlesbrough said they will challenge the “bizarre” and “ironic” request “in the strongest possible terms”.
The Football Association will make a decision on Wednesday.
Championship club Middlesbrough, who have knocked out Premier League sides Manchester United and Tottenham in this year’s competition, said the request was “without any merit whatsoever”.
“To suggest as a result that MFC and our fans should be penalised is not only grossly unfair but without any foundation,” read a Middlesbrough statement.
Chelsea Supporters Trust asked the club to withdraw the request, saying it “does not benefit” any fans.
The measure was introduced to stop oligarch Abramovich, who is looking to sell Chelsea, from profiting.
He has been banned from being a club director and the sale of Chelsea has been delayed after the UK government sanctioned him over his connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Chelsea said they made the request “with extreme reluctance” to the FA not to allow fans of either side at the Riverside “for matters of sporting integrity”.
A statement read: “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.”
Middlesbrough said: “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.”
FA boss expects quarter-final to go ahead
Chelsea said on Monday they were talking to the government on a daily basis “in search of a resolution” to the issue of selling tickets, and that the Premier League and FA had spoken to the government about the potential sporting integrity issues raised.
The government last week granted an amendment to the licence, allowing Chelsea to spend £900,000 on costs for home games – up from the £500,000 set on Thursday – but the allowable away costs remain at £20,000 per game.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said the government is in “discussions” with Chelsea “to look at ways ways we could potentially enable further ticket sales”.
Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) session about the role of Russian money in the ownership and sponsorship of clubs, Huddleston said licence amendments taken so far were “precisely to stop” Chelsea from going into administration.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham told the DCMS session that he “would expect the (Middlesbrough) game to go ahead”.
A government spokesman said: “We are working to ensure more away fans can attend games, but this must be compatible with the licence so we ensure that no additional revenue can be raised.”
Travel needs are about injuries, not ‘bling’ – Tuchel
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, whose side face Lille in the Champions League last 16 second leg on Wednesday, said they have made adjustments to travel with a budget of £20,000.
The amount spent on travel for an away Premier League match is about £30,000, while European away fixtures add an extra premium.
Tuchel said travel needs were centred around players avoiding possible soft-tissue injuries during a busy schedule rather than “luxury and bling bling”.
“This is just a professional level of sports, where we play with two days between matches with our opponent having four days between matches and we arrive with the possibilities of injuries,” he said.
“For that, it is better to arrive with a plane rather than a bus.
“From my understanding, we have a framework to go and play in Lille with absolutely no excuses.
“Regarding these organisations, it is already more difficult to arrange things on a professional level, in the best way possible, for the FA Cup.
“But we will deal with it. As long as we have shirts and are ‘alive’ as a team, we will be competitive and fight hard for our success. We owe it to the people who support us.
“We are in the spotlight and it is our responsibility to do so. We will do it.”