Have Chelsea learnt nothing from the Super League fiasco?

Chelsea's latest sporting scandal amidst Ukraine sanctions

Mitchell Hall
16th March 2022
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Shades of the past fell heavily upon British football this week as Chelsea requested the FA to let their upcoming FA Cup game against Middlesbrough be played behind closed doors, allowing no spectators from Boro’s support despite the game being played in their stadium.

In a statement regarding the lack of availability of away tickets for Chelsea fans, the club announced that they were “asking the FA board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity,” suggesting that they felt the lack of away support would negatively affect the performance of their players. They went on to say that they believed this was the “fairest way of proceeding.”

It was immediately clear to the football world that this was a disgraceful statement from start to finish and displayed a sickening level of entitlement over a side who have produced a magic cup run thus far. Boro’ fans will be raring to get behind their team during this once in a generation series of performances, which have already seen them knock out the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. To suggest that robbing the fans of such an opportunity (despite no guilt in regard to being owned by an oligarch with significant ties to a warmonger currently ravaging a nation) would be in any way fair, is an insult to the game and its supporters.

It demonstrates once again that the priorities of monolithic clubs in the sport will never truly line up with the fans’ love of the game.

The debacle has evoked memories of the failed Super League project that is still fresh in the sports consciousness, a point which was emphatically drilled home by an incensed Boro’ chairman Steve Gibson, who stated that “Sporting integrity and Chelsea do not belong in the same sentence” and would go on to label the attempt as “pathetic.” Such a heated reaction is more than understandable, with the request being something of a spit in the face towards the club and its fans, believing that the smaller club should roll over and deny their fanbase in order to better facilitate Chelsea’s cup chances, a situation they are in due to the actions of their ownership, not poor luck or an act of God.

The lack of accountability displayed here is rife within the modern game, and can be seen in the mindset of many clubs and the players within them, perhaps presenting the place from which players are instilled with such an attitude that has caused the increase in football related scandals in recent years. Far too often the governing bodies cave to the demands of the sporting giants at the expense of fans, smaller clubs and therefore the game itself.

As with the Super League however, the cynical event was stopped in its tracks by the power of public outrage, with Chelsea withdrawing their request and presumably crawling back to Stamford Bridge dejected and confused as to why anyone would care about any football team that is not themselves. Whilst the opinions of the people are currently keeping such actions at bay, it is down to the regulators to crack down on such attempts to subvert the game, and it is worrying that Chelsea had to retract the request rather than it being burned and thrown out as soon as it arrived.

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