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Chelsea requests FA Cup tie to be behind closed doors

Chelsea will be unable to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough, and the Premier League club has asked the English Football Association (FA) to move the game behind closed doors as a result.

The club had approached the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) to sell tickets for the away game at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.

Chelsea also requested that the FA move the game behind closed doors to preserve “sporting integrity”.

Chelsea said it has been in ongoing discussions with the UK Government since the sanctions placed on Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who owns the club, were announced last week.

The deadline to purchase away tickets has now passed without amendments being made to the Government licence, which would allow a full Chelsea crowd to attend the FA Cup tie.

The licence was created following the sanctions to allow Chelsea to continue running, and includes allowing current season ticket holders to attend games, the payment of staff and the ability to fulfil fixtures.

The club is also allowed to sell food at games for those attending, but is not able to sell merchandise.

According to Teesside Live, Middlesbrough has sold out its allocation for Saturday’s match, while Chelsea sold around 500 of the allocated 4,620 tickets before the licence came into effect on March 10.

In a statement, Chelsea said: “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 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.”

The statement added: “We will continue to discuss the issue of ticket sales with OFSI as there are a number of fixtures still to be played this season and we hope to reach a resolution.”

Middlesbrough released a statement labelling Chelsea’s request as “bizarre” and “without merit”.

“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,” said the statement.

“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 a 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 a 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.”

The FA has not yet responded to Chelsea’s request.

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