Atletico Madrid are set to appeal against the stadium ban and £120,000 (€155,000) fine handed out to them by UEFA for incidents during their Champions League home match with Marseille on October 1.
The Primera Liga club have issued a statement in which they said they are planning to appeal the punishment – the sternest issued by UEFA in their fight against racism – and wanted to make a public defence.
European football’s governing body have ruled Atletico’s next two Champions League home matches cannot not be played within 200 miles of Madrid, meaning Liverpool’s clash there next Wednesday will now have to be moved – leaving the plans of thousands of Reds fans in tatters.
The third match ban will only be invoked if there is a repeat of crowd trouble or racist chanting within the next five years.
Atletico coach Javier Aguirre has also been banned for his club’s home and away fixtures against Liverpool for insulting Marseille players.
“Regardless of the fact that the club is going to defend its rights by means of the filing of the corresponding appeal, it considers it necessary to put forward its position against the decision made by UEFA, both to its supporters as well as to the public opinion,” said a statement on clubatleticodemadrid.com.
“The club feels that the sanctions imposed are completely unfair and disproportionate.
“Concerning the accusation of racist insults, the club would like to state that at no time were insults of racist or xenophobic character directed at any Marseille player, as supported by the video of the match and in the record given by the UEFA delegate himself.
“It must be recorded that Atletico Madrid has no prior record with UEFA for equal or similar acts to those set out in the ban.
“In reference to the action attributed to our head coach, Javier Aguirre, for which he has been suspended for hurling insults at the players of the opposing team, the circumstance did not take place at any time, as is made quite clear in the report of the delegates designated to the match and from the fourth referee, who, at no time, mentioned such circumstances in his report.”
Atletico forward Luis Garcia has branded the punishment “excessive”.
“There will be complications after a punishment like this, I’m sure,” he told the club’s website.
“The club and the fans will have a lot of trouble seeing the game against Liverpool if the punishment is confirmed. We have to accept it, but I think it’s something that should be looked at carefully.”
The 30-year-old playmaker added that he did not believe the Marseille fans were totally blameless for the events that unfolded during the Champions League clash.
“Those of us who were on the pitch were worried because we knew something could happen, even that the game might not be played, but Atletico Madrid and their fans didn’t do anything,” he said.
“It was the away fans. For all these reasons it seems like an excessive punishment to me.”
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres has spoken of his disappointment after hearing his much-anticipated return to the Vicente Calderon could be scuppered.
Torres came up through the ranks at Atletico and quickly become a fan favourite before moving to Anfield over a year ago.
“After so much time waiting, it is the worst and most unexpected news that I could have heard this morning,” the 24-year-old told 'Marca'.
“I’m eager to go back. I don’t know if it is definitive, I hope that a solution can be found.
“It is a shame that these incidents have forced the stadium to be closed, but if this is what happens then we have to accept it.”