Uefa defend four-match ban and record fine for Inter

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The Independent Football

European football's governing body, Uefa, was forced on to the defensive yesterday after Internazionale escaped with a four-match stadium ban for the crowd trouble which led to Tuesday's Champions' League derby with Milan being abandoned.

European football's governing body, Uefa, was forced on to the defensive yesterday after Internazionale escaped with a four-match stadium ban for the crowd trouble which led to Tuesday's Champions' League derby with Milan being abandoned.

Inter had feared expulsion from next season's Champions' League given that this was a second offence, but a disciplinary panel in Nyon, Switzerland, instead imposed a record £132,000 fine and ordered them to play six matches behind closed doors, two of which are suspended for three years.

Milan's keeper Dida was struck and burned by a flare thrown during a barrage of missiles during the match on Tuesday night, and his side have been awarded the match 3-0. They play PSV Eindhoven in the semi-final.

Uefa's communications director, William Gaillard, denied Inter had escaped lightly. "There will be some people who think that it is lenient and other people who think that it is harsh," Gaillard said. "This is the highest fine in the history of Uefa and the loss of four home games will mean they lose out on revenue for around 8m euros [£5.5m].

"You have to put it in the context of the game. There were no further injuries apart from a very slight one to the goalkeeper which we absolutely regret, and it is a very hefty punishment compared to anything in the last five years."

In 2001, Inter were ordered to play two European home matches away from San Siro and fined £35,000 after similar crowd trouble at their Uefa Cup game with the Spanish side Alaves, and they have also have a serious problem with hooliganism from their "ultras", the extremist fans attached to most Italian clubs.

Had they been expelled from next season's Champions' League, Inter would have lost around £10m in television money and bonuses and a further £8m in match-day takings. Given that their punishment can be increased if they appeal - they have three days to do so - it seems very likely that Inter will accept the punishment.

Should there been any more crowd trouble at their European games the two-match suspended ban will be imposed immediately on top of any new disciplinary sanctions.

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