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'Rotten football club' - Middlesbrough & owner Steve Gibson respond to Chelsea's 'bizarre & ironic' request to play FA Cup tie behind closed doors

17:34 GMT+3 15/03/2022
Chelsea Middlesbrough FA Cup 2021-22
The request has since been removed by the Blues, but not before being lambasted by the Boro supremo

Middlesbrough have hit out at Chelsea's "bizarre" and "ironic" request to play their FA Cup quarter-final tie behind closed doors, a request that was revoked mere hours later on Tuesday evening.

Chelsea confirmed the request to the Football Association on Tuesday due to the fact they cannot sell tickets to their fans because of sanctions imposed on owner Roman Abramovich by the UK government.

The Blues said they want the game to be played without any fans present for matters of "sporting integrity", but Middlesbrough are not happy with the suggestion, with their owner Steve Gibson labelling the Premier League side a "rotten football club".

What have Middlesbrough said?

"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," a statement from the club read.

"All concerned are well aware of the reasons Chelsea have been sanctioned and that this has nothing to do with Middlesbrough Football Club.

"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."

What has Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson said?

Gibson said, as quoted by The Telegraph: "We haven't made our feelings known to the FA or Chelsea yet, because Chelsea haven't contacted me,” he said.

"They haven't had the courtesy of telling me this was going to happen, they just took it to the FA. The game is this weekend!

"These sanctions placed upon Chelsea were done so by the Government, not by football, not by Middlesbrough.

"It's got to be kicked out and it's abhorrent. This rotten football club, Chelsea. We pick up the newspapers and read about Abramovich and the way he conducted his life, and we see what's going on in Ukraine, and it's beyond comprehension. It really is."

Request swiftly removed

The FA originally announced on Tuesday that the proposal from the Stamford Bridge side will be discussed at a Professional Game Board meeting on Wednesday.

However, a spokesperson for the governing body released a statement confirming the request has been removed on Tuesday evening.

It reads: “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.

“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's travel plans for the weekend clash are also likely to be disrupted, as it was revealed that they may have to take a bus to Middlesbrough instead of a plane because of limits to how much they can spend on travel to fixtures.

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