Chelsea retracts "bizarre" request to play FA Cup behind closed doors
Chelsea withdrew a request that the FA Cup be played behind closed doors after failing to reach an agreement with the UK government about selling tickets.
It seems Chelsea will be playing their FA Cup quarterfinal match against Middlesbrough in a stadium packed with opposing fans this Saturday.
Chelsea failed to reach agreement with British government
Chelsea has been restricted from selling tickets due to the terms of their special license, which has been in effect since Thursday, when their owner, Roman Abramovich was sanctioned for having ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
"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 recognizes 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 license was imposed, but we believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances.”
Fair for whom, exactly?
Middlesbrough's response: Bizzare and without merit
Middlesborough certainly didn't find it to be a fair ask. Their statement called Chelsea’s suggestion “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,” it said. “To suggest as result that MFC and our fans should be penalized 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 to the extreme.”
The FA had said they will discuss the matter tomorrow (Wednesday) at their Professional Game Board meeting. However, Chelsea has since withdrawn their request to play behind closed doors.
Chelsea has said that they will continue to try to amend the restrictions placed on them through the sanction. "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," a statement released by Chelsea read.
The FA Cup quarterfinals will be played this Saturday, March 19 at 1:15 p.m. ET.