Maritimo forced to close part of stadium for Newcastle fixture

THUMBS UP ... Newcastle manager Alan Pardew gestures to his players during their Europa League qualifier against Atromitos.
THUMBS UP ... Newcastle manager Alan Pardew gestures to his players during their Europa League qualifier against Atromitos.

NEWCASTLE United will kick off their Europa League group stage campaign in a half-empty stadium.

UEFA have ordered next Thursday’s Madeiran opponents Maritimo to close some sections of their Estadio dos Barreiros home.

European football’s governing body has carried out a series of inspections on rebuilding work at the 8,000-capacity stadium this week.

And Maritimo feared the fixture against Newcastle would have to be played at the home of their rivals National, though the capacity of its Estádio da Madeira home falls short of the minimum number of seats – 8,000 – demanded by UEFA.

Alternatively, the club could have been forced to host United on the Portuguese mainland.

However, UEFA – who demanded improvements to lighting, turnstiles, seats and the Press box – have confirmed the stadium has been approved after an inspection yesterday.

“The stadium has been approved and the match will take place in Madeira,” read a UEFA statement issued to the Gazette.

“However, due to some construction work, some sections of the stands will be closed.”

Newcastle, to the frustration of those fans travelling to the game to back Alan Pardew’s side, are yet to reveal ticket details for the fixture, the first of the club’s six group stage games.

In Madeira, UEFA’s demands, and the possibility of having to stage the match at a neutral venue, have been the cause of much anxiety at Martimo.

Speaking earlier this week, Madeira present Carlos Pereira said: “The (UEFA) delegate did a check of all that is being done, but remembered other things.

“I remain optimistic and confident that we will get the approval.

“Let’s roll up our sleeves and complete the works.”

Maritimo qualified for the group stage thanks to victory over Greek club Asteras Tripoli in the competition’s third qualifying round.

The club finished fifth in the Portuguese league last season to qualify for the Europa League.

Twitter: @milesstarforth