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ARSENAL have slammed Uefa for selecting Baku as the host of the 2019 Europa League final after season-ticket holders with dual British and Armenian citizenship were denied visas.
The decision to play the match in the Azerbaijani capital caused great concern among fans before the the Gunners and Chelsea reached the final and have worsened since.
Arsenal winger and Armenia captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan was unable to play against Qarabag in Baku earlier in the competition because of the hostility between the two countries and it’s likely he will miss the final for the same reason.
Following the conclusion of the semi-finals, it was revealed that both teams were being allocated 6,000 tickets each for a stadium which holds closer to 70,000 supporters.
And now that some Arsenal supporters have been denied visas, the club have turned to the Foreign Office while eager to know how host venues are chosen.
A statement read: “We are bitterly disappointed by the fact that due to transport limitations Uefa can only make a maximum of 6,000 tickets available to Arsenal for a stadium with a capacity of well over 60,000. Time will tell if it is even possible for 6,000 Arsenal fans to attend the match, given how extreme the travel challenges are.
“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.
“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.”
There are only three scheduled flights per week between London and Baku, but all seats are sold out in the days before and after the match — other non-direct flights can take over 10 hours.
Driving the distance would take upwards of 50 hours behind the wheel, while a train journey could last as long as four days.
In the other all-English European final, supporters of both Liverpool and Tottenham have urged Champions League sponsors to give back their tickets to the fans.
Spirit of Shankly and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust released a joint statement not only asking for tickets to be given to “loyal supporters” for this match but for future finals as well.
It has long been a problem that stadiums are packed with corporate bigwigs who have no affiliation to either club, while fans who have travelled across Europe have no choice but watch the game at home or pay astronomical fees to attend the match live.
The two clubs will share 33,226 tickets for the final at the Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid — the stadium has a capacity of 68,000.
The joint statement says: “Spirit of Shankly and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust — the independent official fan groups of LFC and THFC — are calling on the main sponsors of the Uefa Champions League to return a proportion of the tickets they have received for the Champions League final to the pot for supporters of both clubs.
“We ask Nissan, Playstation, Gazprom, PepsiCo, Banco Santander, Mastercard, Heineken and Expedia Group to help redress the balance in the current unfair allocation that means fans of both competing clubs receive less than 25 per cent of available tickets.
“As major sponsors of the Uefa Champions League, your companies appreciate the passion and dedication of the fans who follow their teams and make every game a spectacle.
“But many of those fans who have followed their club throughout this season will miss out on the biggest game of all. As will thousands more loyal supporters.
“SOS and THST believe such a gesture by the sponsors would help lift the occasion by increasing the number of passionate fans inside the stadium, and increase each brand’s standing on a global scale.
“We also ask that each sponsor lobbies Uefa to allocate tickets for future finals on a fairer, more equitable split that has supporters benefit.”
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