Concerns over travelling from a coronavirus epicentre to Anfield saw 290 Atletico Madrid supporters opt out of the March 11 tie, but Liverpool “refused” a refund.
The Reds’ Champions League last-16 clash with Atletico on March 11 has now been widely deemed a mistake, as a sold-out crowd watched on despite the coronavirus outbreak.
It has now developed into a global pandemic, and pre-match criticism of the call to allow fans to travel from Madrid has been compounded by Liverpool council’s director of public health Matthew Ashton describing it as “not the right decision.”
The number of cases in the Merseyside area has increased dramatically since, and though Ashton admitted “we will never know,” he suggested the game “could have been one of the cultural events and gatherings that influenced the rise in Liverpool.”
Of course, it should be considered as reckless for fans to have made the trip as it was for the government to permit it, with football already being played behind closed doors in Spain at the time.
But Spanish publication AS has reported that 290 Atletico supporters chose not to travel to Anfield “at the last minute due to the coronavirus.”
As a result, the Madrid club have refunded their tickets, as they have with fans who bought tickets for postponed clashes with Real Valladolid, Alaves and Real Mallorca.
This only came, however, after Liverpool “refused” to cover the costs, which as the game was held at Anfield means they will have retained around £15,000.
It is, of course, the club’s prerogative to do so—the tickets were sold in good faith, and the fans could have travelled—but given the fallout it would have served as a common-sense, goodwill gesture to provide a refund.
In the wake of the decision to furlough non-playing staff by use of a government scheme to cover 80 percent of their wages, this could be seen as more bad PR for Liverpool.
There was no obligation to reimburse the 290 fans who did not wish to attend the game, but it can certainly be seen as the correct decision for those supporters to do so.
However, clearly fulfilling this refund could have presented a wider problem for the club as many Reds fans could have made the same choice, which would in turn require their repayment.
This climate is a minefield in terms of financial decisions, but Atletico at least did the right thing in reimbursing their fans.