Whichever way you look at Uefa’s typically poor decision to enforce Atletico Madrid to play their next two fixtures in a neutral venue, there is only one real loser in the situation.
Once again it is Liverpool fans who are on the receiving end of Uefa’s amateur mismanagement and poor organisation. I struggle to imagine that any governing body, other than Uefa (or maybe Fifa), could decide to move a match with one week’s notice, and possibly only a few day’s notice.
The few day’s notice referring to the fact Atletico have until noon on Friday to appeal the decision, which they are certain to do, and then a venue would be announced following the appeal. So travelling Liverpool fans will not even know which city they need to be in, 4 days prior to the match itself.
With three to four thousand fans estimated to be travelling to Madrid, with many having booked hotels for more than one night, it leaves fans – once again – hugely out of pocket. Not that Uefa’s fat cats will mind. Just like they didn’t care in Athens when they decided to host a European Cup Final in a stadium with no turnstiles and no stewards, leading to the chaos which ensued with ticket problems and fans with genuine tickets being denied entry into the ground. Of course, Uefa blamed it all on us and it has been largely swept under the carpet despite them since admitting to be wrong in that they have now implemented a criteria which host stadiums must meet – geniuses aren’t they!
Uefa’s decision to take action against Atletico itself is a positive move but it is the timing and manner of which they have done so which is downright disgusting. It is about time somebody was finally punished for racist behaviour but one cannot help but imagine if the incidents which have plagued Spanish football in recent years had occured in England, then we’d be looking at more than just one club having been made to play three matches in a neutral venue.
There are several ways Uefa could have handled this particular incident better; one minor one would have simply to have announced the new venue today; another would have been to have announced the ban a little earlier than 8 days prior to the match (after all the incident took place two weeks ago); another would have been to implement the ban from the game after next week’s. All in all, anything which required some common sense.
The Â£120,000 fine which they have handed Atletico must surely now be used to put on free travel from Madrid to wherever the match is eventually played, but a 180 mile coach journey from Madrid will be no good for any fans on charter flights set to land on the afternoon of the match.
Of course, our very own owners could use this as an opportunity to gain some positive press at last and ensure fans aren’t left out of pocket once again.
There’s an idea, George, Tom and Uefa’s William Gaillard (with help from Rick Parry) could sit down and make a wonderful team to sort all this out…