While making a European final is always cause for celebration, Arsenal can’t help but feel a little slighted by the way things have transpired ahead of their upcoming Europa League final match against Chelsea in Baku, Azerbaijan.
After securing their place in the final, Arsenal learned that they were only going to be allotted roughly 6,000 tickets for their fans for the 60,000 capacity Baku Olympic Stadium, an appallingly low amount for a club with a fanbase as ardent as Arsenal’s. On the heels of this news, yesterday it was also revealed by the Mirror that Arsenal fans were being denied Visas to travel to Azerbaijan, specifically those with dual English and Armenian citizenship.
We have touched on the logistical nightmare and puzzling decision regarding the final location already, and now the club is confirming the frustrations shared by Arsenal supporters. Having traveled to Baku for a group stage match against FK Qarabag, Arsenal had already dealt with the difficulties associated with traveling 2,500 miles to play in Azerbaijan.
In light of these frustrations, Arsenal released an official statement today asking for answers from UEFA about not only the ticket debacle, but also the decision making process for selecting a location for the final.
"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."— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 16, 2019
It’s highly unusual for a club to release a statement of this nature, but Arsenal’s concerns are pronounced. Compounding the puzzling decision to put the final in Baku is the ongoing Henrihk Mkhitaryan situation, and to date, UEFA has given the club no definitive assurance that the Armenian will be safe should the club choose to bring him to the final. While Arsenal were comfortable in being able to leave the attacking player in London for the group stage match, it would be highly unfair to the club if they were unable to ensure safety for one of its players due to political unrest.
Although finals are traditionally dispersed across the continent to give cities the opportunity to host a marquee sporting event, Arsenal “would like to understand the criteria by which venues are selected for finals,” as the roadblocks and hurdles the club are facing continue to mount, and the club is “bitterly disappointed by the fact that due to transport limitations Uefa can only make a maximum of 6,000 tickets available to Arsenal.”
So here we are. With nearly two weeks before Arsenal’s first European final in 13 years, the mood surrounding the Emirates is far from joyous. There has been no statement from Chelsea as of yet, but it would shock no one if the London club was equally as put off by UEFA’s head-scratching decisions. While it would be nice to hear a response from UEFA, there is little they could say to pacify the current state of affairs.
With any luck, an Arsenal victory will make all of the headaches worth it in the end.