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Arsenal and Chelsea both return half their ticket allocation for the Europa League final

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Who saw this coming? Other than everybody?

Ajax v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final
A sign seen by nobody this season
Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

We’ve already talked a bunch about why hosting a final in Baku, Azerbaijan on a Wednesday night is far from ideal. One of the biggest reasons is that it’s hard and time-consuming to get to (albeit cheap when you get there!), at least relatively, for English fans.

From London, you’re only ever about two hours’ flight from any major Western European city, and those flights are both cheap and plentiful, which is why it’s easy to follow your team in the Champions League (and, generally, in the Europa League). So when you have to take a five-plus hour flight to get to Baku, and when those flights are scarce and fairly expensive, due to a lack of airport capacity, you can imagine that the number of fans able to actually take multiple days off work and pay for flights, lodging, food, match tickets, etc, is, to be gracious, not infinite.

When the initial 6,000 per team allocation was announced, it seemed far too small for a major European cup final; the stadium holds 69,000 people, after all, and with modern ticketing systems, it’s a simple matter to allocate way more than needed and pull them back in the event of non-sales.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happening. Today, Arsenal and Chelsea have confirmed that due to the challenges their fans are facing in getting to the match, they’re each returning about half their ticket allocations, so instead of 12,000 fans in Baku, there will be something around 6,000.

It’s frustrating, but it’s predictable - when UEFA listens to money instead of siting the game where a lot of people can get to it, these things are bound to happen. I get why they want to stage the game outside the typical western European venues, but there’s any number of central or eastern European cities that could host - Moscow hosted a Champions League in 2008, Kiev and Istanbul have both hosted a CL, and Warsaw and Bucharest have both hosted a Europa League final, so it’s not like that part of the world is uncharted waters.

UEFA could and should have done better at siting this final, even before it became an all-English affair. Hopefully they’ll think more with their brains and less with their wallets in the future. Who am I kidding? Of course they won’t do that.