“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 say after its owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned last week.
Chelsea has asked for its FA Cup game against Middlesbrough to be played without a crowd because the government won't allow it to sell any tickets under the terms of its license to operate after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned.
Chelsea said it made the request to protect the “sporting integrity" of the quarterfinal after being unable to convince the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation to ease the terms of its license ahead of Saturday's game.
Middlesbrough said it would be “grossly unfair but without any foundation” to prevent its fans from going to the game.
Abramovich’s assets were frozen after he was sanctioned by the British government last week over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin following the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
“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,” Middlesbrough said in a statement.
The FA will discuss Chelsea’s request at a meeting on Wednesday.
“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 said in a statement.
“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 license was imposed, but we believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances.”
Chelsea would have been allowed fans at Middlesbrough who had already bought tickets before Abramovich was sanctioned.
READ MORE: Abramovich disqualified as Chelsea director by Premier League
No additional revenue can be raised
“One of our priorities is to uphold the integrity of the game and Chelsea will have a limited number of fans at the Middlesbrough game,” the government said in a statement.
"We are working to ensure more away fans can attend games, but this must be compatible with the license so we ensure that no additional revenue can be raised given the club is owned by an individual now sanctioned both in the UK and EU .”
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham was taking questions from legislators in London at a hearing on Russia sanctions when news of Chelsea's request broke.
“When we step back and look at what the government is trying to achieve with the sanctions on Mr Abramovich, it’s clearly to put pressure on Mr Putin," Bullingham said.
“I think the end state will be something where the government lends a licence to allow fans to go to games. I think that hasn’t been possible in time for this weekend."
READ MORE: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich sanctioned over Putin links