CSKA Moscow's game against Bayern Munich to be played in an empty stadium
What else is new? Russian football fans have a history of violence and racism, and the latest infractions (at last season's away game at Viktoria Plzen) drew an UEFA stadium ban for their next European home game, which happens to be the match against FC Bayern Munich on September 30th in the Russian capital. Unfortunately for traveling Bayern fans, who booked their flights to Moscow immediately following the release of the group stage schedules, that includes the away fans too.
Bayern fans complain to UEFA
Club Nr. 12, an organization of the biggest Bayern fan clubs, wrote an open letter to UEFA, asking for an open dialogue with the European football authority. Among other things, they mentioned the lack of fairness in punishing fans of a club that was in no way responsible for the breaking of the rules, and that UEFA had made exceptions in the past, allowing Schalke fans to attend a game at PAOK Saloniki in 2013, while Northern Ireland supporters were admitted to a game against Serbia in 2011, where stadium closures were in effect in both cases. They also pointed out the fact that the Bayern fan community has been active and vocal in denouncing racism and discrimination for years, and were even recently honored by the DFB for their efforts on that front.
The reaction from UEFA: Crickets! Nada! Zilch! Is someone talking to us? We can't hear anything!
FC Bayern backs the fan complaint
Only after both the club and the Football Supporters of Europe (FSE) group brought attention to the open letter, along with Club Nr. 12 announcing a planned protest against the decision, did UEFA finally react. Their answer: Too bad! They point to the fact that the stadium ban had been announced back in February (long before CL groups for this season were drawn), and fans should have known better. No explanation was given on why exceptions can't be made for away fans, and the request for further talks were outright ignored. UEFA's justification that the sanctions can't be changed after the fact ring hollow, considering the relaxation of the FFP punishment that was handed down to Manchester City and Paris St. Germain earlier this year.
Plans to hang protest banners squashed by UEFA
However, the plans of Club Nr. 12 to hang protest banners at Wednesday's home game against Man City, reading "Do you care about away fans?" and "Where is your RESPECT, UEFA?" (a play on some of UEFA's recent slogans) was countered with the threat of anything from a fine to a partial stadium closure for FC Bayern. At the request of the club, the fan groups cancelled the protest, not wanting to harm the club.
Instead, they chose to send a message to one of their own, giving support to poor Holger Badstuber, who is once again out with a major injury.
So, where does that leave us? It's not clear if this is the end of the road, and the Bayern fan clubs have to suck it up in the face of UEFA's indifference and inconsistency, or if this will be further appealed by the club. Stay tuned.