Chelsea’s request for FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough played behind closed doors slammed by Championship side
Middlesbrough described Chelsea’s request to play in the FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday (stream LIVE at 1:10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the US) behind closed doors on the grounds of “sporting integrity” as “weird, without any merit” and “ironic in the extreme”.
The Championship club have issued a strong statement in response to Chelsea’s request to the Football Association, which came after they failed to agree on a relaxation of the license granted last week to continue their operations after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government last Thursday.
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Sources have told ESPN that Chelsea sold around 600 tickets for Saturday’s game at the Riverside Stadium before the government intervened, since then the club have not been allowed to sell tickets under the terms of their licence.
Chelsea have entered into a dialogue with the UK government in a bid to ease restrictions – with some success, after seeing their £500,000 spending limit for hosting home games increased to £900,000 – but have issued a statement on Tuesday expressing frustration at a lack of progress elsewhere.
“It is important for the competition that the game against Middlesbrough goes ahead, but it is with extreme reluctance that we ask the FA board to order the game to be played behind closed doors for safety reasons. sporting integrity,” the statement read.
“Chelsea FC recognize that such a result would have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and its supporters, as well as on our own supporters who have already bought the limited number of tickets sold before the imposition of the license, but we believe it is the fairest way to proceed in the current circumstances.”
After the FA confirmed they would consider the request at a board meeting on Wednesday, Middlesbrough released their own statement highlighting what they believe to be hypocrisy following the government’s decision to punish Abramovich – and by extension Chelsea – for the 55-year-old. alleged former ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin after that country invaded Ukraine.
“We are aware of Chelsea’s request to play the Emirates FA Cup sixth round on Saturday behind closed doors and find their suggestion both bizarre and without any merit,” it read.
“All concerned are well aware of the reasons Chelsea have been sanctioned and that it has nothing to do with Middlesbrough Football Club.
“To suggest as a result that the MFC and our fans should be penalized is not only grossly unfair, but completely baseless.
“Given the reasons for these sanctions, that Chelsea seek to invoke ‘sporting integrity’ as a reason for the game to be played behind closed doors is extremely ironic.
“We are currently awaiting official notification from the FA of the next steps, but rest assured that the MFC will stand up to Chelsea’s actions in the strongest terms.”
Earlier, Chelsea confirmed that they will continue their conversations with the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) regarding future matches.
“We will continue to discuss the issue of ticket sales with the OFSI as there are a number of matches remaining to be played this season and we hope to reach a resolution,” the club statement continued.