Chelsea withdraw request for FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough to be played without fans

Chelsea have agreed to withdraw their request for the FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough to be played without fans, the Football Association has announced.

An FA spokesperson said: “After constructive talks between the FA and Chelsea, the club has agreed to remove their request for the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie against Middlesbrough to be played behind closed doors.

“The FA remains in ongoing discussions with Chelsea, the Premier League and the Government to find a solution that would enable both Chelsea fans to attend games and away fans to attend Stamford Bridge, whilst ensuring sanctions are respected.”

Chelsea had caused a storm earlier in the day after they declared they wanted Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough played behind closed doors after Government officials blocked the Blues from selling tickets for the Riverside Stadium clash.

The Riverside Stadium. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

The Blues have lobbied the Government hard over relaxations to the strict operating licence put in place after Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by Downing Street.

Abramovich must not profit in the UK under the Government sanctions, and Chelsea are blocked from selling new tickets in the terms of their new licence.

And after talks with the Government failed to yield a softening of the stance over tickets, the Blues questioned the FA Cup quarter-final’s sporting integrity should Chelsea fans be barred from attending.

A Chelsea statement read: “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.”

However, Boro then hit back strongly and said they will contest the proposal.

A Boro statement read: “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.”

The initial Chelsea statement in full:

"We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough.

“Despite engaging in extensive discussions with the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), the deadline to purchase away tickets has passed without appropriate amendments being made to the Government licence which would allow a full allocation of Chelsea supporters to attend. Executives at Middlesbrough had been kind enough to extend their deadline for ticket sales and stadium allocation from 7.30pm last night until 9.30am this morning.

“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 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.

“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.”

The Middlesbrough statement in full:

"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.

“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 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 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.”