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Platini mulls allowing only women, kids at games

October 22, 2014

LONDON (AP) — UEFA President Michel Platini is mulling whether to allow only women and children into matches rather than completely closing stadiums as punishment for supporters’ racist abuse.

CSKA Moscow’s Champions League match against Manchester City on Tuesday was played without paying fans, the first of three UEFA fixtures the Russian club must play behind closed doors over racism.

But City captain Vincent Kompany questioned why innocent away fans were also excluded from the stadium, while manager Manuel Pellegrini criticized the presence of CSKA fans in the few hundred sponsor seats occupied in Moscow.

UEFA, which has prioritized strengthening racism sanctions in recent years, justified the need to allow a small number of commercial partners into the stadium, while disclosing that the sanctions are under constant review by Platini.

The European body could emulate rules introduced by Turkey’s football association in 2011 that allow only women and children under 12 into games involving teams sanctioned for unruly fan behavior. Such a change to sanctions would require approval from within UEFA.

“The president is always looking at ways we could improve our rules and regulations,” UEFA Chief of Press Pedro Pinto told The Associated Press. “Just yesterday we discussed the possibility of inviting women and children for free instead of closing the stadium completely.

“It was done in Turkey a few years ago and it had a really positive effect on football. Obviously this would need to be discussed further before being properly proposed, but it is an idea for possible sanctions in order to avoid empty stadiums.”

Despite the presence of around 300 spectators in sponsors’ seats at CSKA’s 2-2 draw with City, Pinto highlighted how the hosts did not gain financially.

“I think the club has already been penalized a lot — less than three percent of the stadium capacity was in attendance,” Pinto said. “The club isn’t getting gate receipts, and the players aren’t getting any meaningful support.

“If we say it’s behind closed doors, then it’s supposed to be behind closed doors to the general public, but there are always tickets given to VIPs, UEFA staff and sponsors. Our sponsors and partners pay a lot of money to be associated with the competition and are contractually entitled to receive a number of tickets. They shouldn’t have to pay the price for the behavior of others.”

Pinto said UEFA’s reports from Moscow have shown there was no record of “any inappropriate behavior in the stands.”

“We can’t stop a limited number of sponsors and corporate guests from supporting their own team. If they decide to show up with a scarf or flag we can’t stop that,” Pinto said from UEFA’s Nyon headquarters. “I can tell you, however, that there is an ongoing internal conversation on this issue in general and perhaps we’ll look to see if there are better solutions.”

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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