In what has to be considered a poor decision, the UEFA Appeals Body has reduced the initial three-match stadium closure to a two-match behind closed doors sentence, with one match deferred for two years. Consequently, Atlético must play their next home fixture in the Champions League, against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday November 26th, without any spectators in attendance. The initial fine of 150,000 Euros still stands.
Atlético were punished after crowd problems marred their Champions League home match with Olympique Marseille on Oct 1, when UEFA said failures in the club’s organisation of the event led to confrontations between visiting fans and Spanish police. Racist chants were reportedly aimed at the French club’s players, while the Marseille team bus was attacked after the match. Atlético were originally ordered to play their next two European fixtures at least 300km outside Madrid.
“Atletico will fight for their innocence until the very end. There has been a reduction (in the punishment) but we don’t agree with the manner in which the process has been conducted,” director Clemente Villaverde told the club’s website .
The ban for Atlético coach Javier Aguirre was not reversed, and he will be banned from the sidelines for the games against Liverpool FC away on Tuesday and the visit of PSV three weeks later. Aguirre was sent off in the match against Marseille and was told that he will have to sit in the stands for the two matches, but he will travel to UEFA headquarters to appeal the decision.
According to Aguirre he did not insult either the referee or any player and said that the referee did not include anything in his report about his actions. “They cannot punish me for telling a player not to do something. There was no insult on my part and no physical or verbal aggression,” he told Spanish newspaper AS.
Videos of the incidents between Marseille supporters and the police in the stadium can be seen via these YouTube links:
I think the reduction of this ban sends a very bad message to the UEFA community. Racism and violence in the stands is tolerated by the organizing body. How else can these continued weak sanctions be viewed ? I’m disappointed in the decision and I don’t think UEFA is truly interested in ridding the sport of this disgusting element once and for all. As important as standing up for the smaller federations might be, I hope Michel Platini turns some attention to racism and violence that continues to mar the beautiful game. These sorts of incidents have gone on for far too long.