'Ironic in the extreme' – Boro respond to 'bizarre' Chelsea FA Cup request

By Sports Desk March 15, 2022

Middlesbrough have offered a strong response to Chelsea's request to have their FA Cup quarter-final at the Riverside played behind closed doors.

Chelsea visit Boro on Saturday for the latest match of a sequence that has been overshadowed by sanctions imposed on club owner Roman Abramovich due to his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

With Abramovich unable to make any money from his ownership of Chelsea, the club are under strict measures, unable to negotiate contracts but also restricted in sales of tickets and merchandise.

Tickets have only been released in the case they were purchased prior to the sanctions – such as season tickets – meaning Premier League games against Norwich City and Newcastle United were unaffected.

But the cup tie at Boro, which has only recently been confirmed, is set to go ahead without Chelsea fans in attendance.

The Blues therefore argued no supporters from either side should be present "for matters of sporting integrity" – a stance that was met on Tuesday with widespread criticism and ridicule, including from opponents Boro.

A Boro statement read: "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."

Chelsea must play away at Lille on Wednesday before heading north to meet Boro, who have already eliminated Manchester United and Tottenham from this season's FA Cup.

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