Chelsea have urged the Football Association to move Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal at Middlesbrough (stream LIVE at 1:10 pm ET on ESPN+ in the US) behind closed doors on grounds of “sporting integrity” after they were denied the chance to sell tickets to away fans.
Chelsea are operating under tight restrictions defined by a special license granted to the club so they could continue to fulfill fixtures and pay staff despite being a frozen asset of owner Roman Abramovich, one of seven Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the UK government Thursday for alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Among the limitations is a ban on selling tickets to supporters outside of season tickets and those sold on an individual basis prior to sanctions being announced.
Chelsea have been in dialogue with the government aiming to ease the restrictions — with some success as, among other concessions, they have had their £500,000 limit on expenditure for staging home games increased to £900,000 — but issued a statement on Tuesday voicing their frustration at a lack of progress elsewhere.
Sources have told ESPN that around 600 Chelsea fans had bought tickets prior to Thursday’s cut-off but the team now want Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium to be empty for Saturday’s game.
“We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough,” Chelsea said in a statement.
“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 license 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 7.30 pm last night until 9.30 am [on Tuesday] 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 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.
“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 FA responded with a short statement that read: “We are aware of Chelsea’s request to play their FA Cup quarterfinal tie against Middlesbrough behind closed doors. The matter will be discussed at the Professional Game Board meeting [on Wednesday].”