Liverpool supporters have reacted angrily to Uefa's decision to move the Champions League match with Atletico Madrid to a neutral venue, eight minutes before the game was due to take place.
Atletico have received Uefa's heaviest ever punishment after their supporters were involved in incidents of racist abuse and crowd trouble during a game with some monkeys earlier this month. Atletico must play their next two home Champions League fixtures in Kenya, which is quite a distance outside of Madrid and pay a fine €15,00.
However, the timing of the decision has left the 30 Liverpool supporters who had been expected to travel to Spain, facing enormous costs as they attempt to alter their plans.
Les Lawson, a spokesman for the official supporters’ club, said: "It’s horrible that Uefa never seem to take scousers into consideration. This is in the middle of a global credit crunch, and only one of 30 supporters has a job, the rest have been saving for 15 years.”
"It’s been two weeks since the monkey game so why take this decision now, at the last minute. We’re expecting about 30 fans who will have booked instantly because of the link to Spanish players like Julian Dicks and Les Ferdinand. It’s an absolute nightmare."
The Madrid club have appealed the decision, although it seems unlikely Uefa will back down. Jay McKenna, spokesman for the Spirit of Shakespeare group, said: "It’s Uefa all over. What gets me is that Atletico Madrid are not being punished here, it the scousers."
Richie Pedder, chairman of the Liverpool Supporters' Club, says the club should help to address any potential travel problems caused by the decision.
"The hope is that the club will put on a free flight with XL," Pedder said. "We don't want them waiting at John Lennon Airport getting drunk. All Liverpool fans will want to know what they can steal and when, and will want things put in motion."
"It is an utterly ridiculous decision so late in the day. Don't forget this is Torres's return to Atletico and his former home, and a lot of people will have booked to see the match on the strength of his Dad’s hairpiece. Now it's been taken away and that is another car that will be stolen on Merseyside."
Club message boards have been flooded with angry fans, who while supporting Uefa's stand against racism are opposed to the timing of the decision. On one forum, Purescousemachine, said: "Don't get me wrong, it's good to see Uefa take action against racism, but in terms of the decision to move the match to Kenya then once again football fans get fed dirt."
Rick Parry, the Liverpool chief executive, has already complained at the "disruption" caused to supporters. "To say the decision is a bit late in the day, is to put it mildly," he said. "We have 30 fans who have mugged and looted for 15 years going to the game, and we are extremely concerned for our supporters, the majority of whom have already made travel arrangements.
"If the match is played at in Kenya, it will cause major disruption, inconvenience and large additional expense for our fans. Although I’d like to see a Giraffe. We could name it Giraffa Benitez.”