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Chelsea withdraw request to play Middlesbrough tie behind closed doors

Chelsea have withdrawn their request to have their FA Cup 6th round tie at Middlesbrough be playe...



Chelsea have withdrawn their request to have their FA Cup 6th round tie at Middlesbrough be played behind closed doors. 

Unable to sell tickets to travelling fans for the game at the Riverside due to sanctions imposed on owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea had claimed the sporting integrity of the tie was being compromised.

They were roundly scoffed at from all corners, including Middlesbrough, the House of Commons, and by former players.

Boro chairman Steve Gibson described the appeal as "pathetic", saying, "The words 'sporting integrity' and Chelsea don't belong in the same sentence. For 19 years, money has fuelled the success of Chelsea Football Club."

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham was appearing in front of a House of Commons select committee on Tuesday and, at the time, was unable to comment on Chelsea's request.

Steven Brine, Conservative MP for Winchester, told Bullingham he should "tell Chelsea to get their shin pads and their boots on and play the damn game."

Meanwhile, former Chelsea full-back Graeme Le Saux tweeted to say, "I can’t think of a more embarrassing statement to come out of the club that I played for for 12yrs.

"Either ignorant or arrogant. I am confident it doesn’t represent the feelings of the coaching and playing staff."

It wasn't long before Chelsea completed a chastened climbdown.

"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," read a brief FA statement.

"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 said they "are grateful for the FA’s continuing efforts to help us find a solution".

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Chelsea Fa Fa Cup Middlesbrough Roman Abramovich Steve Gibson