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Page last updated at 06:18 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 07:18 UK

Reds face Atletico ground switch

Marseille fans clash with police before the match against Atletico
Marseille fans clash with police before the match against Atletico on 1 October

Liverpool's Champions League opponents Atletico Madrid must play their next two home matches away from the Calderon Stadium as a result of crowd trouble.

The Uefa ban follows the treatment of Marseille fans during and after Atletico's 2-1 win a fortnight ago.

Monkey chants were aimed at the French club's players, while the Marseille team bus was attacked after the match.

The Liverpool game, on 22 October, will be held at a neutral venue, yet to be chosen, at least 200 miles from Madrid.

Liverpool have already written to Uefa to express their concerns over the switch and chief executive Rick Parry told the club website: "To say the decision is a bit late in the day, is to put it mildly.

"We are extremely concerned for our supporters, the vast majority of whom have already made travel arrangements. If the match is played at least 300 kilometres from Madrid, it will cause major disruption, inconvenience and large additional expense for our fans.

It's a huge blow for us, the Spanish players at Liverpool

Reds keeper Jose Reina
"Uefa have to take their needs into account when making a final decision on the game."

The decision to move the game from Madrid will deny former Atletico striker Fernando Torres the chance to return to his former home ground when the Reds look to maintain their 100% start to their European campaign next month.

And the Spaniard has been left devastated by the news, saying: "After so much time waiting, it is the worst and most unexpected news that I could have heard this morning."

Keeper Jose Reina, whose father Miguel Reina Santso played for Atletico in the 1970s, added: "It's a huge blow for us, the Spanish players at Liverpool. As well as that, we all had commitments, tickets agreed, and this changes all the plans."

Atletico have also been fined a record 150,000 euros by European governing body Uefa, while the punishment could be extended to a third home match should there be further trouble at the club within five years.

The club feels that the sanctions imposed are completely unfair and disproportionate

Atletico statement
The Spanish club's coach Javier Aguirre has been punished for abusing a Marseille player.

He has been banned from the sidelines, the tunnel, and the dressing room, and is forbidden from communicating with his team, during the matches against Liverpool on 22 October and at Anfield on 4 November.

Atletico must also play PSV Eindhoven away from the Vicente Calderon Stadium on 26 November, although plan to appeal against the punishment.

They have until 1100 BST on Friday, 17 October, to do so, after a ruling the club described in a statement as "completely unfair and disproportionate".

"Concerning the accusation of racist insults, the club would like to state that at no time were insults of racist or xenophobic character directed at any Marseille player, as supported by the video of the match and in the record given by the Uefa delegate himself," the Atletico statement said.

"It must be recorded that Atletico Madrid has no prior record with Uefa for equal or similar acts to those set out in the ban.

"In reference to the action attributed to our head coach, Javier Aguirre, for which he has been suspended for hurling insults at the players of the opposing team, the circumstance did not take place at any time, as is made quite clear in the report of the delegates designated to the match and from the fourth referee, who, at no time, mentioned such circumstances in his report."

A Uefa spokesman said the ruling was evidence of the organisation "acting with renewed strength" against racism.

And the move has been welcomed by anti-racism campaigners, with former Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, ambassador for European campaigners Fare, saying: "This is a momentous decision.

"I and other leading players in the game - black and white - fully support the actions that UEFA have taken and urge all governing bodies to work with us to make sure that racism is effectively eradicated."

Lord Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, added: "The leadership that Uefa has demonstrated through these sanctions sends out a message that is loud and clear - racism will not be tolerated."

News of the suspension comes a day after the Football Association refused to sanction a plan to stage an England friendly against Spain in Madrid because of the racist abuse suffered by the likes of Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips the last time they played there.

The punishment appears to be a lot harsher than that imposed upon Croatia a month ago.

Their FA was fined just 15,000 by world governing body Fifa after their supporters aimed monkey chants at Emile Heskey during England's World Cup qualifying 4-1 victory.

However, Gaillard denied "double standards", saying: "That was a Fifa fine, not a Uefa fine.

"We have no direct influence on Fifa decisions at all. But if we had been in charge, the punishment would have been a lot heavier."


see also
England veto Madrid for Spain tie
13 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Ferdinand condemns Fifa on racism
08 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Croatia fined over Heskey abuse
25 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Spain must pay heavy price
18 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Reaction from Spanish press
18 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Is Spanish football racist?
21 Dec 04 |  Football
Fifa probes Spanish racist chants
18 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Ferdinand almost quit Spain game
19 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Spanish fine disappoints Wenger
23 Dec 04 |  Arsenal
Taylor wanted England to walk off
18 Nov 04 |  Internationals
Spain fined for racist chanting
21 Dec 04 |  Internationals


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