Atletico stadium ban causes headache for Reds

UEFA have announced Atletico Madrid’s next two Champions League home games must be played at a neutral venue, meaning Liverpool’s tie in eight days is to be moved – to an as yet unconfirmed venue.

The punishment follows racist behaviour from some Atletico supporters at the Spanish club’s home tie with Olympique de Marseille. Atletico have also been fined €150,000 (£120,000) and their coach Javier Aguirre has been banned. The club also face a suspended third ban, should the scenes be repeated.

The fine is the largest ever handed out by UEFA, but Atletico Madrid have until midday this Friday, October 17 to appeal, which means 3,000 Liverpool fans will not find out where the tie will take place until four days before they're due to attend the game.

It has been specified the tie must be staged at least 300kms (187.5 miles) away from Madrid but at present it is unclear where the new venue will be and whether fans will be allowed to attend at all – thousands of Liverpool fans who have already made their travel arrangements stand to lose out.

FSF director of policy & campaigns, Steve Powell, said: “While we are pleased UEFA appear to be taking the issue of racism more seriously, this will cause untold problems for Liverpool fans following their team abroad.

“Moving a game at eight days notice obviously makes it extremely difficult and expensive for Liverpool fans to rearrange travel – especially since they don’t know where the game’s going to be held. Or even whether they’ll be allowed to attend!

“Liverpool fans – innocent in all of this – are in an impossible position which doesn’t look like being resolved until Friday at the very earliest.”

While it is pleasing to see UEFA adopt a hard line towards racist behaviour, its disciplinary authorities need to protect the interests of travelling supporters who are entirely innocent in this affair. Where stadium bans are applied this factor must be taken into account.