Serbia will have to play their next two European qualifying matches behind closed doors as punishment for the chaos that enveloped their match with Albania in Belgrade last week but both sides have been sanctioned by Uefa.
The Guardian has learned that Uefa’s disciplinary committee has decided to sanction both teams, with Serbia and Albania each being fined €100,000 (£78,000) and the home side being awarded a 3-0 victory. However, neither side will get any points, because Serbia have also been docked three points.
The decision has already been labelled a “travesty” by lawyers for the Albanian FA, which believes its players were placed in mortal danger by the Serbians’ inability to control the crowd in Belgrade.
It was the surreal appearance of a remote-control drone, hovering low over the pitch bearing a flag for “Greater Albania” that sparked scenes of violence.
The Albanian players fled from the pitch while being attacked by fans and stewards, later refusing to return and causing the match to be abandoned.
The brother of the Albanian prime minister was accused of flying the drone but he denied it. Uefa is no closer to finding out who was responsible.
It was the first match between the two sides in the Serbian capital since 1967 but, despite the tension between the nations following the Kosovo conflict and that disputed territory’s declaration of independence in 2008, Uefa did not keep the teams apart in the qualifying draw.
The ruling has already been labelled a “travesty” by sources close to the Albanian FA, which believes its players faced unprecedented provocation from the crowd, who pelted them with stones and lighters and chanted “Kill the Albanians”.
They argue that the players were justified in refusing to return to the field because they feared for their lives.
Chimi Shakohoxha, a partner at the law firm Clarke Wilmott, was at the match as part of the official Albanian delegation and said he saw banners featuring war criminals and constantly heard racist chanting.
The match, from which away fans were banned under an agreement between the two countries, was halted for the second time by the English referee Martin Atkinson in the 41st minute after flares were hurled on to the pitch.
The drone then hovered into view, clearly displaying the flag, which hung close to the pitch before being grabbed by the Serbia defender, Stefan Mitrovic. When several Albanian players attempted to take it from him, a mêlée ensued.
Television pictures showed Serbian fans and stewards attempting to attack the Albanian players, who refused to return to the pitch. Following a tense half-hour wait, Atkinson abandoned the match.
Serbia were formally charged with setting off fireworks, crowd disturbance, a pitch invasion, “insufficient organisation” and the use of a laser pen.
Albania were charged with refusing to play and the “display of an illicit banner”. Branislav Ivanovic, the Chelsea defender, said Serbia wanted to play on but their Albanian opponents were “unfit physically and mentally” to return to the field.
According to Serbia, they asked Uefa to finish the match, which was goalless, after emptying the stadium or to replay it this week but the Albanian FA refused. The incident was the latest in a string of controversies involving disorder by Serbian fans.
In a rambling 1,500-word statement the Serbian FA placed the blame for the incident firmly on the Albanian players and officials, claiming they were “accomplices” to a plan that was a “pre-planned terrorist action”.
“The incident itself and the behaviour of the Albanian players, coach and staff leaves no room for doubt that they were part of a synchronised plan to stop the match,” the FSS claimed.
The Albanian FA said their players were attacked not only by fans and stewards but also by police as they fled for the dressing room. Their captain, Lorik Cana, said it was a “miracle” that no one was seriously injured.
Shakohoxha said he expected the Albanian FA to appeal. “This is a travesty. It’s a cop-out. We are totally committed to banishing racism from football and this judgment appears to fly in the face of that aim. This is not about the points; it’s about fighting racism.”