CSKA Moscow vs Manchester City: Shambles shows 'closed doors' is not the solution

 

Hundreds of men wearing scarves, clutching plastic containers of beer and chanting “CSKA”. This was what we saw on Tuesday night in a Moscow football stadium where the racism has been so unrelenting that home matches were supposed to have been played “behind closed doors” for the entirety of this Champions League campaign. It was a disgrace: a football club laughing in the face of attempts to impose a code of civil decency. The Uefa anti-racism “Respect” videos screened inside the stadium were an ironic subtext to the whole shambles.

CSKA Moscow – who were so prepared for supporters that their club shop was open on Tuesday night – were also making a mockery of those Manchester City fans who had laid travel plans, booked hotels and reorganised work, only to hear that there would be no game to see.

It would hardly have taken the powers of forensic science to begin examining what went wrong. Sources in Moscow say it has been an open secret for several weeks that some of Uefa’s “partner organisation” tickets had made their way on to the open market. Uefa will not be investigating its own partners, though. The speed with which it closed down the issue yesterday was an insult to City.

The Independent’s video of the CSKA supporters (below) reveals the club’s grounds for anger.

This week’s curious journey into the east has revealed how unsatisfactory a solution playing “behind closed doors” really is. It is a forbidding and alien environment for the away team, too, struggling to maintain powers of concentration when the game resembles a training match. Sensing an excruciating headline or two, City were asking late on Tuesday that Manuel Pellegrini’s comments about the effect on his team of the Moscow cold might not be exaggerated, but the stadium was far more of an ice box with no supporters in it. As CSKA become more experienced at playing in the still of the icy night, the more the punishment will help them.

A logical way of delivering a genuinely punitive deterrent to racism would be to admit only away fans, though Uefa indicated to me last week that this could be a security nightmare, with CSKA fans, pumped up by their own sense of injustice, seeking confrontations.

 

The right solution is to make the offending team play games away, sacrificing all the attendant commercial advantages – TV rights, ticket, merchandise and hospitality sales. That would shake some life into a football club which harbours racists. The wheels of progress will grind slowly as Uefa fiddles. But, in the meantime, those City fans who are £800-odd out of pocket should be entitled to write to Uefa, documenting their costs, and be compensated by CSKA for their losses. Will that happen? City won’t be holding their breath.

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