The FA have confirmed that Chelsea’s request to play their FA Cup match with Middlesbrough behind closed doors has been withdrawn.
The London-based club are currently working under a special licence that allows them to continue operating following Roman Abramovich’s sanctions last week.
However, this does not allow any tickets to be sold that had not already been purchased before the sanction was put in place.
This meant a very limited Chelsea crowd was expected at the Riverside this weekend for their FA Cup clash.
In turn, Chelsea released a statement in which they confirmed they had asked for the game to be played behind closed doors due to ‘sporting integrity': “It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead,” Chelsea said in a statement on Tuesday, “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.”
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson then responded to this statement with one of his own, in which the Boro chief claimed 'Chelsea and sporting integrity do not belong in the same sentence': “Chelsea and sporting integrity do not belong in the same sentence. Where is the intellect of Bruce Buck, the chairman of Chelsea, who has been an apologist for his owner, where the trophies won over 19 years have come from the corrupt money provided by Abramovich?
“Where is the intellect of the chairman of Chelsea when it comes to playing his games at home in front of his season ticket holders? Does he want to play all his away games at empty stadiums?”
Now, however, the FA have confirmed that Chelsea’s request has been removed: