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Oct 15, 2008

Atletico made to wait over stadium ban decision

MADRID, October 15 (Champions League) - Atletico Madrid are awaiting confirmation that the stadium ban imposed by UEFA has been postponed after being told that a decision has yet to be taken.

European football's governing body on Tuesday ruled the Spanish club must play their next two Champions League games at least 200 miles from the capital - a third game was suspended - while they were also fined 150,000 euros.

Reports in Spain on Wednesday indicated UEFA have had a change of heart and will allow the match to be staged at the Calderon, although no confirmation has yet been given.

"We deny (the reports). No decision has been taken," William Gaillard, special adviser to UEFA president Michel Platini, told Reuters.

The punishment was handed out after trouble flared during the Champions League match between Atletico and Marseille at the Vicente Calderon on October 1.

The incidents included outbreaks of violence between Marseille fans and Spanish police after the latter removed a banner which featured a prohibited symbol, as well as accusations from Marseille officials and players that they had been racially abused by the Atletico fans.

The sanction was immediately condemned by Atletico, who have announced they plan to appeal. Liverpool officials also expressed concern that their fans were facing a late change to their travel arrangements.

Atletico have received the full backing of the Spanish government.

Spain's Minister of Interior Affairs, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said: "I will defend the actions of the Spanish police and we will hand all the necessary material that we have available to Atletico Madrid so that they can present an appeal against this unusual decision."

Soledad Mestre, a local government official, added: "The actions taken by the police were correct and proportionate in view of the violent behaviour by a section of Marseille fans."

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo also reiterated his belief that the game will be played at the club's own ground.

"I urge the fans to be calm because the game will be played at the Vicente Calderon," Cerezo said.

"Any other decision would create a social, logistic and security problem.

"There is no other stadium available and we are convinced that this game will be played here because Atletico has done nothing wrong."

Atletico believe they can prove there was no racial abuse towards Marseille officials and players, and will present video footage of the game to UEFA as evidence.

"Atletico is a sensitive club against any type of discrimination," Cerezo continued.

"At no time has a UEFA delegate or a referee reflected in their statements racist attitudes (from Atletico fans).

"Some Marseille players said that in the opening 30 minutes of the game they heard racist insults but having viewed the video in those moments you cannot hear anything like that."

Cerezo also believes that UEFA have failed to look at all the evidence available and accused the footballing body of having "unfinished business" with Spanish authorities following clashes between police in the country and foreign fans in previous seasons.

"UEFA's resolution is based on a report sent by the Marseille general director, who shows his opinion, that of the French press and the fans," he said.

"The reports of the two UEFA delegates that were present at the game prove that the club organisation and the work of the security forces was perfect for the game to take place under maximum security.

"We dont feel mistreated but we do feel we are paying the consequences of UEFA's unfinished business with the Spanish police."

In 2007 Tottenham complained to UEFA over the treatment of their followers at the hands of the Spanish police during a UEFA Cup clash with Sevilla.

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