UEFA will face questions over its enforcement of ground closures after a number of CSKA Moscow supporters appeared to gain entry to their side’s UEFA Champions League clash with Manchester City at the Khimki Arena.
The Group E match, which ended in a 2-2 draw, was officially played behind closed doors after the European governing body punished the Russian club for repeated racist offences by their fans. Three sides of the ground were closed but 650 people were allowed entry.
As the game kicked off and CSKA chants broke out, it soon became apparent that a significant number of those admitted were fans. They chanted or cheered throughout the game, raising questions over UEFA’s supposed ban on supporters.
Nobody from UEFA was available to comment but it is understood the governing body has little control over who the 300 tickets set aside for sponsors are distributed to. Of the rest of the tickets, each club receives 75 for their own delegates, 50 go to the children involved in the pre-match ceremony and their parents and there are 150 media.
City have not commented but are understood to have made a representation to UEFA, although the governing body is already aware of the issue.
CSKA media director Sergey Aksenov insisted the club had nothing to do with the fans who entered. He said:
“Those people you are talking about are 360 people from the UEFA Champions Club – partners, sponsors. If they are CSKA fans, they are good for us. Everyone is invited by UEFA, not CSKA.”
In a strange post-match press conference, CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky was also asked about the situation – but the question drew laughter from Russian journalists. “I don’t know,” he said, to applause.
City’s visit to the Khimki Arena in the same competition last year was also overshadowed by controversy as midfielder Yaya Toure was racially abused by CSKA fans. That was the first of three offences in the space of a year which culminated in the current three-match stadium closure.
In this latest clash, CSKA claimed a draw after being awarded a controversial penalty four minutes from time.
It was suggested to City boss Manuel Pellegrini that the presence of supporters may have encouraged the hosts or even influenced the referee’s decision. Pellegrini said: “Well I agree but maybe it is not my duty to talk about things that do not correspond to my duty.