Last week was one where you wonder what it would be like to be someone who doesn’t enjoy football. We had four successive days filled with incredible goals, performances and comebacks. The week ended with four English teams in the two European finals and the goal of the season being scored by the captain of the (now) league champions.
Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal fans were all soon brought back to earth with a bang (no, not their collective hangovers) when the details of the respective finals were confirmed. It became clear that supporting their side in the final of these competitions would mean an incredibly long road trip or breaking the bank (or indeed robbing one for one fan).
Arsenal and Chelsea fans will both receive 6,000 tickets for the match in Baku’s 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium. Part of the reason for this small allocation is allegedly that Baku’s airport can only handle 15,000 passengers a day. There are also no direct flights between London and Baku. In a response to criticism for the destination of the Europa League final, UEFA said that these were issues beyond its control. While sorting out a country’s infrastructure is far beyond UEFA’s remit, it does have some say over situations like this: do not award big sporting events to locations that are not fit to host it.
Then there is the ticket pricing for the Champions League final. Inflated prices of tickets is nothing new, but it is always shocking to see the costs in black and white. The most expensive ticket is £513 and the majority of tickets are in the £154 price bracket. There is a small discount for those seats with a restricted view. Yes, really, there are restricted views in a stadium hosting European football’s most-watched event. As soon as the final whistle blew last Wednesday, the algorithms that dictate how much we pay for flights hiked up the cost of flights to Madrid from London. Tales from social media show that many are planning a road trip to Madrid – probably not a bad idea if your side wins but it could be a long, painful drive home for the losers.
Separately, Sunderland supporters aiming to travel to Portsmouth for their play-off game on Thursday could only buy tickets from yesterday [Monday]. Pompey’s allocation for the first leg was cut following their fans’ poor and dangerous behaviour in the league fixture in April. In response, Portsmouth made it purposely difficult for Sunderland fans to make plans for one of the longest journeys in the Football League by holding onto their tickets as long as possible.
No matter the level, supporters are treated dreadfully by so many different groups in the game. It is nothing short of a miracle that the sport’s popularity continues to grow despite the ineptitude of those at the top of it. No wonder more people stay at home to watch on television – soon there’ll be no one left in the stadiums.