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Atletico home ban lifted

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UEFA have temporarily lifted the ban which would have seen Atletico Madrid forced to play Champions League games away from their home stadium, the Vicente Calderon.

The decision means thousands of Liverpool fans will avoid the nightmare of having to rearrange travel arrangements for the club’s Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid this coming Wednesday.

It was announced earlier this week that the game had to be moved at least 300kms (187.5 miles) away from Madrid following racist behaviour by some Atletico supporters at the club’s home game with Olympique de Marseille. The Spanish side was also fined a record €150,000 (£120,000) and their coach Javier Aguirre banned from the touchline and dressing room for two games.

However, UEFA were keen to stress that this does not mean the Spanish club would be let off the hook. Merely that the ban had been suspended to avoid unfairly punishing Liverpool fans and would be reviewed at a later appeal.

A UEFA statement said: “It should be emphasised that suspension of the sanctions does not mean that the decision of the control and disciplinary body has been set aside. The decision remains in force pending a full hearing of the appeal which will now take place on Friday, 31st October 31, 2008 at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.”

UEFA acknowledged the problems that moving the game would have caused for Liverpool fans and warned Atletico that Wednesday’s tie would be under “particular scrutiny” with penalties likely to be severe should any racist incidents occur.

FSF chair, Malcolm Clarke, said: “We welcome UEFA’s stance in combating racism and will be interested to see the verdict of their disciplinary panel at the end of the month. Racism cannot be tolerated in any form and heavy penalties are required for offenders.

“Temporarily lifting the ban is the sensible decision. If it had gone ahead the punishment would have had the biggest impact on Liverpool fans, who are entirely innocent in this affair.”

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