Manchester City fans frustrated by empty stadium ban on Dynamo Kiev
Published 14/12/2015 | 15:56
Manchester City fans have expressed their frustration after learning they will not be able to attend the away leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev.
The match on February 24 will be the second of two the Ukrainian club have been ordered to play behind closed doors by European governing body UEFA for the misbehaviour of supporters. Offences included racist chanting during their group match against Chelsea on October 20.
City supporters have been similarly prevented from watching their team before, after CSKA Moscow were hit with a stadium closure last season.
City fans organisation 1894 Group have been vocal in their criticism of such bans and unfurled a banner at the Etihad Stadium last week which read, 'Closing grounds punishes innocent fans'.
A spokesman for 1894 Group said: "City fans are penalised once again - however it could have been any innocent set of fans penalised here.
"UEFA has had its head in the sand for years dealing with racism at European stadiums. Banning innocent fans is not the answer.
"In the 70s and 80s in England we didn't shut whole stadiums down. We targeted the minority and removed them.
"By closing down a whole stadium the trouble-causers feel they have achieved something. It actually gives them publicity.
"What UEFA is doing does not solve the problem. They (UEFA officials) need to come out of their bubble and start talking to fans groups."
City fans have no great love for UEFA, as shown by their regular booing of the Champions League anthem prior to home games.
There are numerous reasons for the protests, including the Financial Fair Play penalties imposed on City, but most of the ill-feeling stems from the game in Moscow in October last year.
A number of supporters had already made travel, visa and accommodation arrangements when CSKA were punished and they felt they were unfairly treated. Their frustration was exacerbated when it appeared around 650 CSKA fans attended the game having acquired tickets from sponsors' allocations.
Kevin Parker, general secretary of the Manchester City Supporters Club, said: "If UEFA sticks to its rules that it is going to be played behind closed doors and nobody is going to be in the stadium, that should become an advantage to City.
"However, we City fans have previous with UEFA, when we played CSKA Moscow in a game that was supposedly behind closed doors. Lo and behold there were quite a few CSKA fans in the stadium under this umbrella of UEFA guests.
"City fans and the club, I am sure, will be watching this one with interest to make sure UEFA follows through its rules."
The attendance for Kiev's match against Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, the first behind closed doors, was recorded at 475.
The situation for City supporters this time is slightly different given that they know in advance no tickets will be made available.
And Parker said: "I think a lot of City fans would have struggled to get to Kiev anyway. I think we already knew before the draw certain airlines wouldn't want to be flying to Ukraine, so some of the companies that would have chartered flights for supporters might have struggled.
"In terms of the draw itself it is not so bad. Dynamo Kiev will not be easy but we wanted to avoid Paris St Germain and, after that, of the teams we could have got, it was much of a muchness."