UEFA responds to Arsenal’s criticism of ‘unacceptable’ Europa League final decisions

The Gunners have questioned the staging of a showpiece event in Baku and ticket allocation, but European football's governing body are standing firm

UEFA has issued a response after Arsenal urged them to answer to what they consider to be “unacceptable” decisions taken around the Europa League final.

The Gunners have criticised the decision to stage a showpiece event in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, with two London-based sides due to take to the field.

Chelsea will provide the opposition for Unai Emery’s side on May 29.

Both of the Premier League teams involved have also hit out at a ticket allocation process which has left them with just 6,000 apiece.

ReadArsenal say Baku ‘unacceptable’ as Europa League final host

UEFA has already sought to defend that call, with journey time and costs taken into account, and have now endeavoured to offer further clarity to Arsenal and anybody else questioning their logic.

A statement directed to those at Emirates Stadium on the official website of European football’s governing body read: “We acknowledge your letter of 15 May.
“I would like to give you a bit of depth with this reply. Knowing your long experience in football and UEFA competitions, I am sure you can fully appreciate that the organisation of a final is a complex and lengthy operation. UEFA has committed to appoint hosts only via a fair and transparent bidding process, where the candidates have to provide evidence of their ability to stage the event on the basis of a number of criteria that are crucial to its successful delivery. “The bidding process for a club competition final is generally held a couple of years in advance, meaning that the exact circumstances in which the final will have to be organised cannot be known at the time of the appointment. “Mobility and accommodation are obviously key criteria falling under evaluation, with airport capacity being an important element. The specificity of the UEFA Europa League final, when compared to the UEFA Champions League final, is the high volatility in the number of fans following the two finalist teams. Experience from all previous finals tells us that the numbers may be very inconsistent from team to team and from final to final and that it is therefore not advisable to establish the tickets quota of the two finalist teams as a proportion of capacity rather than on statistically based realistic figures.

“It would of course be ideal to postpone the entire ticketing process (including tickets for neutral public) until such moment when teams are known or closely predictable. Of course this is not possible due to the complexity of all ticketing operations and the need to draw up thorough and robust security plans.

“It goes without saying that an all-English final played by two London teams was not a very predictable event at the time of the appointment. There is little doubt that this has added significant difficulties to the event logistics. We are really sorry for the problems that your (and Chelsea’s) fans are encountering trying to organise their journey to Baku. Our experts are keenly working on this matter with a view to help find cheaper solutions for travelling fans. We would welcome a joint effort with your club in this respect.

“For UEFA fans are a priority. Football is for fans and all of them around Europe should have the chance to enjoy unique moments of top football such as only UEFA competitions can offer. Those matches are usually reserved to a limited number of countries whose clubs are particularly competitive but, when appropriate infrastructure exists and is built also in this perspective, it is fair and due not only to give also other fans the possibility of a unique live experience, but also to stage events which can greatly boost the promotion of football in an entire region. That’s why UEFA would consider utterly unfair to exclude certain venues just based on their decentralised geographical position. “I trust your understanding as men of sport and representatives of a club with a long and glorious tradition and solid sporting principles. I confirm our availability to work with you in order to find helpful solutions for your fans.”

Arsenal, who claim to have been left “bitterly disappointed” at being unable to get more supporters to the eagerly-anticipated fixture, will be looking to secure Champions League qualification when taking in a clash with Chelsea after only being able to muster a fifth-place finish in the Premier League.

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