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Atlético slams ruling over alleged stadium overcrowding, safety issues

Spanish LaLiga football club Atlético de Madrid has hit out at “arbitrary, unjustified and totally disproportionate” sanctions, including a proposed €350,000 (£317,000/$426,000) fine, that have been levelled against it for alleged overcrowding at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

Atlético issued a strong response on Thursday evening following the sanctions proposed by the Spanish government’s Comisión Permanente de la Comisión Estatal contra la Violencia, el Racismo, la Xenofobia, y la Intolerancia en el Deporte.

The Commission proposed the sanctions at a meeting yesterday, stating that Atlético had committed “very serious” offences relating to “repeated breaches of access control measures”. It added that “since the inauguration of the Wanda Metropolitano stadium and coinciding with those meetings with the greatest influx of fans”, there has been “occupation of the evacuation routes and excess capacity in the area of ​​the stadium located in the Fondo Sur”.

In response, Atlético said: “The proposed sanction is arbitrary, unjustified and totally disproportionate. The ruling issued by the Comisión Permanente de la Comisión Estatal contra la Violencia, el Racismo, la Xenofobia, y la Intolerancia en el Deporte is full of generalities, does not refer to any specific party, does not provide any specific data and, surprisingly, makes a sanction proposal today, December 3, 2020, when nine months have passed in which no match with spectators has been held at the Wanda Metropolitano.

“Curiously, the other two sanctions proposed to two other clubs, and that are mentioned in the same note issued, describe in detail specific events that occurred in recent weeks, providing the exact day and a detailed description of the events. In the case of the accusation against Atlético de Madrid, it is surprising that none of this data is provided, as the Comisión usually does, and only speaks in a generic way.

“Atlético de Madrid is accused of having incurred an excess of capacity in the Fondo Sur, specifically in the grada de animación. The club firmly affirms that there has never been an excess capacity in any match held at the Wanda Metropolitano, neither in the grada de animación nor in any other area of ​​the stadium. This is demonstrated by the data on the real attendance of spectators in each of the 18 games held with fans during the last 19-20 season, until the pandemic broke out.”

In its statement, Atlético provided attendance data from LaLiga stating that of the 18 games in question, none surpassed 95% occupancy for the area of the stadium in question. Indeed, Atlético stated only four games exceeded 80% – LaLiga fixtures against Real Madrid and Barcelona, along with UEFA Champions League matches versus Juventus and Liverpool.

Atlético added: “In any case, it is not possible that there would have been an overcapacity either, since as is well known, LaLiga’s computerised access control system prevents the issuance of more access tickets than the total capacity, and for each area of ​​the stadium.”

The other sanctions mentioned by Atlético include a proposed fine of €60,001 for Deportivo de La Coruña, also “for breach of the access control measures and permanence of spectators” in the match against Racing Club Ferrol played on November 29. 

Concerning the occupation of evacuation routes, Atlético conceded it has faced occasional difficulties in policing an area of the stadium where fans are usually standing. However, it maintains that safety has never been an issue.

The club added: “It is evident that the accusation now issued by the Anti-Violence Commission in relation to the occupation routes does not correspond to reality, and is incomprehensibly exaggerated and generalised.

“In addition, it should be noted that at no time has there been a risk of any kind, not even in the games with the greatest influx of public, since it is public and well-known that the Wanda Metropolitano has wide evacuation routes and large circulation galleries of spectators throughout the stadium, and most prominently in the grada de animación where there is a very large terrace that allows a rapid evacuation in just three minutes of all the spectators who are located in said stands.

“Therefore, Atlético de Madrid categorically rejects the accusations made by the Anti-Violence Commission, will immediately appeal the proposed sanction and will reach as many judicial instances as are necessary. Likewise, the club is going to request an investigation to clarify which organisations or people have caused these false and lacking accusations, on what erroneous information this has been based, and what motivations could have led to publishing these accusations at this time after almost 10 months without an audience in the stadium.”