The European Union has imposed sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in new measures targeting Russia.
The EU included the Russian oligarch in its updated list of individuals facing assets freeze and travel bans due to his close links to Vladimir Putin.
As it stands, Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 second leg at Lille is going ahead as scheduled on Wednesday, with talks continuing between UEFA and the EU.
A UEFA statement read: “UEFA is fully committed to always implementing relevant EU and international sanctions. Our understanding is that the present case is assessed in the context of the licence issued in the UK which allows Chelsea FC to continue minimum football activity whilst providing a safeguard that no financial gain will result for Mr Abramovich.“We will work with the EU and relevant member states to ensure we have full clarity and remain in lockstep with all relevant and applicable measures in line with latest developments.”
Middlesbrough called the request “bizarre” and “without any merit whatsoever” and the UK government said they saw “no reason” why the match should be played without fans.
But hours later Chelsea withdrew the request. An FA statement said: “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.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone gave evidence to the Department of Media, Culture and Sport select committee and said the government may amend its licence to allow Chelsea to sell tickets, so long as Abramovich does not profit from the move.
He said: “The measures we have taken and the licence we have given to Chelsea is to precisely stop [Chelsea going out of business]. It is to allow Chelsea still to play, for staff to still be paid, to honour ticket sales already, and we are discussions with Chelsea and the fans to see if we can allow further ticket sales, because we want the sanctions to hit those we intend to hit and not others.
“But we want to ensure the sanctions hit those we intend to hit and there is minimal impact elsewhere. But there will be inconvenience as a result. We would welcome the sale (of the club) and we would change the licence to enable that sale, and that would be important for Chelsea.”
The Premier League also revealed on Tuesday their intention to introduce a new independent panel to scrutinise the ownership and sale of clubs – but not before Abramovich is expected to complete the sale of Chelsea.