Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK government amid Russian oligarch ...

Chelsea has asked the FA for Saturday’s FA Cup match against Middlesbrough to be played at an empty stadium as it's unable to sell any more away tickets – and Middlesbrough had the best response.

It comes after the sanctions placed on club owner Roman Abramovich due to him being "associated with a person who is or has been involved in destabilising Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, namely Vladimir Putin, with whom Abramovich has had a close relationship for decades."

Abramovich has denied having any close association with Vladimir Putin, but the Premier League has since disqualified him as the director of Chelsea.

As a result of the sanctions, Chelsea have been unable to sell any more away tickets and now the club is claiming that “sporting integrity” of Saturday's game is at risk unless the game can be played behind closed doors.

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Middlesbrough FC has released a strongly-worded statement stating that Chelsea’s request is “bizarre and without merit” adding that Chelsea’s claim of “sporting integrity” being put at risk was “ironic in the extreme”.

The message from Middlesbrough reads: “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.”

It continued: “To suggest as [a] 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.”

While the majority of Chelsea fans might not be too happy, the statement has come in for praise from social media users.

In a statement to The Times, Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson went a step further by saying: “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this excuse of a man, [Chelsea chairman] Bruce Buck. To try this is just unbelievable,” he said.

“Sporting integrity and Chelsea do not belong in the same sentence. For 19 years Abramovich’s money has fuelled Chelsea’s success. If they were to beat us in the FA Cup, with no fans there, what would that do to the integrity of the competition?

“Are they going to play all their Premier League games behind closed doors too? This is pathetic by Chelsea.”

Update: The FA has confirmed that following talks between the two clubs, Chelsea has agreed to withdraw the request to have the match played behind closed doors and there are ongoing discussions that would allow home and away fans to attend the match while respecting the sanctions.

Indy100 has contacted Chelsea for comment.

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