Liverpool Atletico Madrid match ‘should not have been played’

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has joined the growing list of politicians who have criticised the government over its failure to call off Liverpool's Champion's League game against Atletico Madrid.

Metro Mayor Rotheram criticised the government as he and Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham laid out their proposals to help the North West recover from the coronavirus.

The wide ranging plans, proposed today by two of the most powerful politicians in the North, include backing a 'national recovery council' to help the UK through the crisis and devolving more power to regions in the future to help reshape the post-crisis economy.

Speaking about the Atletico Madrid match, Metro Mayor Rotheram said the game, which saw thousands of fans travel from virus-hit Madrid on March 11, should not have gone ahead and accused the government of an uneven approach to the cancellation of events early on in the outbreak.

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Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram

His comments come after the government’s deputy chief scientific adviser told the Liverpool ECHO yesterday that a potential link between the match and rising infection numbers in the city was "an interesting hypothesis".

Metro Mayor Rotheram said: "The government seems to choose whether it takes advice from WHO [World Health Organisation].

"The WHO was quite clear that we should have not played this game and we shouldn't have let fans travel.

"For me this is part of that flawed 'herd immunity' idea the government were promoting at that time."

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Metro Mayor Rotheram said he expected further scrutiny of the government's approach to the cancellation of events at a public inquiry once the crisis was over.

Today's meeting Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram also called for more powers to be handed down to metro mayors across a number of policy areas, including skills, energy and air quality.

They also appealed to the government to strike financial deals to stabilise the inner city transport systems of the UK's largest cities.

Mr Burnham said that without government support Greater Manchester faces having to mothball the entirety of its Metrolink tram system.

Mr Rotheram said that, while Merseyrail was not in as precarious a position, ridership is 83% down on normal figures and that was not a sustainable position in the long term.