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May 30, 2014

Real hit with partial ground closure

UEFA has said Real Madrid must play their first home game of next season's Champions League at a partially-closed Bernabeu after ruling that fans had been guilty of racism during the semifinal first leg against Bayern Munich.

Two areas of the Bernabeu will be empty as Real begin their defence of the trophy, won against city neighbours Atletico last weekend.

The areas identified by UEFA -- sectors 120 and 122 -- are usually filled by members of Madrid's hardcore Ultras Sur. Club president Florentino Perez tried, with limited success, to move them out of the stadium last season.

In a statement, European football's governing body said: "The UEFA control and disciplinary body has handed down sanctions to Real Madrid following incidents during their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against FC Bayern Munich in the Spanish capital.

"Following the charge of racist behaviour by Real Madrid supporters during the match, the control and disciplinary body has ordered the partial closure of the Bernabeu for one match. More specifically, sectors 120 and 122 of the stadium will be closed for the club's next UEFA competition home game."

The statement said Real would be "obliged to display a banner with the wording 'No to Racism' in those sectors" and added that the fight against racism "is a high priority for UEFA."

UEFA adopted a similar stance when it found a homophobic banner had been shown by Bayern fans during last season's last 16 second leg against Arsenal, with the Allianz Arena partially closed for the quarterfinal second leg against Manchester United.

It also punished Atletico Madrid with a partial closure of their youth stadium after racist abuse was aimed at Manchester City players during a UEFA Youth League game.

Spain's football authorities have been slower to act in many such cases. Villarreal were fined 12,000 euros after a banana was thrown at Barcelona's Dani Alves during a La Liga game in April, but after that punishment was widely criticised for its leniency, Villarreal said they would close part of their El Madrigal ground for their first Europa League game of next season.

However, other incidents in which abuse was aimed at players including Madrid's Marcelo, Levante's Papakouli Diop, Granada's Allan Nyom and Paulao of Real Betis, were not dealt with in similar ways.

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