By Andrew Warshaw
May 17 – Fans of clubs taking part in the two all-English European club finals are up in arms over UEFA’s ticket allocation for both showpiece games and the choice of distant Azerbaijan for the Europa League final.
Both Liverpool’s and Tottenham’s supporters’ groups have jointly called on sponsors to return tickets so more genuine fans can attend the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1 while Arsenal and Chelsea supporters are fuming that each will be allocated a measly 6,000 seats for the second-string final three days earlier.
Liverpool and Spurs have been given 33,286 of the 68,000 tickets for the Madrid final, with 4,000 going to general fans via UEFA’s website and the rest going to the local organising committee, UEFA officials, national associations, commercial partners, broadcasters and corporate hospitality packages.
Spirit of Shankly and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust called on the eight major sponsors to “redress the balance” so that fans who have followed their club throughout this season won’t miss out on the biggest game of all.
The groups said the move would “lift the occasion by increasing the number of passionate fans inside the stadium”.
One of the eight sponsors, contacted by the BBC, insisted their sponsorship gives the company “access to exclusive opportunities to share with fans.”
“Given the proximity to the final, all our and our partner promotions and offers have now closed, with tickets allocated,” Mastercard said.
Tickets are appearing on a resale website priced from €3,450 while black market prices are reported to have hit the five-figure mark. Flight companies have also jacked up their prices to astronomical figures while hotel rooms in Madrid are virtually non-existant because of the influx of fans. Those that are available have been hiked up to around €1,000 per night, unaffordable for most fans. The cheapest room at the Hilton Madrid Airport hotel, for instance, is over €2,000, with the same room available for just €150 a week later.
Many fans are booking indirect flights into neighbouring countries to reduce costs, often including lengthy, tortuous ongoing journeys. Whilst UEFA are of course not responsible for the hike in prices by airlines and hotels, they have been heavily criticised over their ticket distribution.
UEFA would doubtless counter that the percentage being allocated to fans of the two finalists is no different to past finals. But that argument doesn’t stack up in terms of the Europa League final with Arsenal and Chelsea fans understandably crying foul at being forced to share just 12,000 of 68,700 seats at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Arsenal issued a statement saying the club was “bitterly disappointed” with the allocation and called on UEFA to explain its criteria for choosing venues.
“Time will tell if it is even possible for 6,000 Arsenal fans to attend the match, given how extreme the travel challenges are,” the club said. “On behalf of our fans, we would like to understand the criteria by which venues are selected for finals, and also how supporter requirements are taken into account as part of this.
“We have 45,000 season-ticket holders and for so many fans to miss out due to UEFA selecting a final venue with such limited transport provision is quite simply not right. The reality is that whoever reached the final would not be able to meet demand from their supporters.”
UEFA, which (fairly) rotates venues year on year, have said the number of tickets issued was influenced by the difficulties fans will face in reaching Baku and because the airport can only cope with a certain number of travellers.
But the fact is the city was chosen over both Seville and Istanbul so UEFA knew exactly what they were potentially letting themselves in for when selecting a venue that is 4,000kms kilometres away London and for which there are no direct flights in the entire week of the final. How ridiculous can you get?
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