UEFA bans Turkish fans from Leeds match

Click to follow

Turkish fans were today officially banned from next Thursday's powder keg Uefa Cup semi-final second leg between Leeds United and Galatasaray at Elland Road.

European football's governing body Uefa confirmed the announcement nine days after Leeds fans Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were stabbed to death in violent clashes in Istanbul on the eve of the first leg.

Up to 1,500 Galatasaray fans had expected to attend the match but Leeds and its chairman Peter Ridsdale had been pressing for the ban.

The decision came as reports from Turkey said four men had been formally charged with murder.

Prosecutor Osman Ikizoglu said he had filed an indictment charging four suspects with the murders of Mr Loftus, 35, and Mr Speight, 40, and was demanding they serve up to 30 years in prison.

But Uefa said 80 complimentary tickets had been allocated to Galatasaray.

Spokeswoman Christina Olsson added: "They may be distributed by the Turkish team to persons who in the opinion of the club will behave in a dignified and restrained manner.

"They along with the directors, players, staff and media representatives will be regarded as Galatasaray's official party."

Mr Ridsdale's primary concern had been the possibility of reprisals if the fans from the Turkish club, with their 1,700 ticket allocation already sold, had been allowed to attend.

Galatasaray were demanding their supporters be at the game or the tie be played at a neutral venue.

Mr Ridsdale said: "I hope there won't now be a backlash from Galatasaray.

"At the end of the day, we have said since the events in Istanbul it's far better for everybody if we could guarantee there would be no further incidents.

"I think this decision confirms it is easier to manage and we are delighted with the Uefa decision. What we now have to do is get on, organise the game and make sure those people who do come from Galatasaray are afforded the appropriate hospitality.

"In all the events of the last seven or eight days we haven't even thought about a football match. We have thought about the safety of the supporters, and of course the families of Kevin and Christopher.

"Now we will get our minds on the football match, but the result seems somehow secondary to everything that's taken place.

"I'm just keen to make sure the game takes place safely and securely and we can put it behind us."

But Galatasaray vice-chairman Mehmet Cansun criticised the decision as "disgusting" and added: "It's unacceptable. It's double standards."

Football Association spokesman Steve Double said: "For us it was the common sense option and we hope the game can now go ahead in a respectful atmosphere and that the families of the two men who died can continue to grieve without any further distractions."

Conflicting reports had claimed Uefa would either allow a small number of Turkish fans into the stadium or have the game played behind closed doors.

Turkish Football Federation president Haluk Ulusoy had reportedly said: "We understand Uefa will rule that no supporters will attend the game, either from Galatasaray or Leeds.

"That must be the correct decision if a neutral venue cannot be found. We feel that the only way the English can guarantee security is if the game is played in an empty stadium."

Leeds and West Yorkshire Police had said they could not guarantee the safety of Galatasaray supporters.