With tickets for the Europa League Final in Baku, Azerbaijan going to general sale, Arsenal have issued a statement hitting out at the governing body over choice of venue.
“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.
“Moving forward we would urge Uefa to ensure that supporter logistics and requirements are a key part of any future decisions for final venues as what has happened this season is unacceptable, and cannot be repeated. We would be happy to join any future discussions to avoid this situation happening again.”
As a season ticket holder with an away scheme and 67 credits, I was guaranteed a ticket for the final no matter the venue. Within an hour of making the final, I realised it was going to be a logistical nightmare and made the decision not to go.
I am hearing fans booking flights to Tbilisi, Georgia; and getting a 7 hour cab to Baku. Others taking 3 flights through Germany and Turkey.
The decision taken by UEFA to host the game in Azerbaijan was clearly not one made with the fans best interest at hearts – no matter if it were English, Germany, Spanish or French fans flying out, it would be a struggle for all.
UEFA should hold an internal investigation as to how Baku won the bidding process. Its airport only has the capacity to take around 15,000 passengers a day. It clearly does not have the infrastructure to hold a major, 1 day sporting event.
Baku was named host city ahead of Istanbul in Turkey and Seville, Spain – 2 venues that are accessible to fans across Europe.
In 2020, the Europa League final will be held in Gdansk, Poland and Tibilsi is likely to be selected for the 2021 final.
You have to wonder how these cities won the bidding process. The logical conclusion is it is the same way Russia and Qatar won the bids to host the 2018 & 2022 World Cup.
Azerbaijan does not have the infrastructure to host a one day major sporting event. There is also a situation where players and fans from Armenia or with Armenian heritage are unable to obtain a visa.
This means that Henrikh Mkhitaryan is unlikely to travel – and British-born Armenian Arsenal and Chelsea fans will have their visa application rejected.
The World Report on Azerbaijan’s Human Rights record is concerning, as is the UK Foreign Offices advice that “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Azerbaijan”.
Arsenal speaking out is too little too late. With 2021 not yet awarded to Tbilisi, hopeful the club leads the way and lobbies UEFA to ensure that fans travel plans is taken into account when host cities are decided.