UEFA sorry for Reds disruption

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UEFA have admitted Liverpool fans face major disruption next week after their Champions League match against Atletico Madrid was switched to a neutral venue.

Atletico have been fined 150,000 euros (£120,000) for racist abuse of Marseille players and handed a three-match stadium ban after crowd trouble and lack of organisation at the same match.

UEFA communications director William Gaillard said: "We are in touch with Liverpool because we are concerned about the fans. We know they face hardship and disruption and we sympathise with that, but we needed to punish Atletico Madrid. We have no alternative."

Liverpool have expressed strong concerns over the timing of the decision but UEFA defended the move saying there was "no alternative" and have pledged to minimise problems for the 3,000 fans who have already booked a trip.

The match cannot take place within 300 kilometres of Madrid under UEFA's ruling, but there are further problems in that Atletico are set to appeal against the punishment, and a final decision will not be known until the weekend.

"What would people have said if Liverpool went there and the players and fans suffered the same treatment?" Gaillard added.

"We know how sensitive the British public are about racism and violence - and rightly so.

"This is to protect Liverpool fans too - the police were harsh and violent against peaceful fans during the Marseille game and do we want the same story as that, or as happened to the Tottenham fans in Seville last year?"

Gaillard said they were already talking to the club about moving charter flights and UEFA would help in any way they could.

"We are looking at the logistics and seeing what help we can provide," he added.

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