The hits just keep on coming for the Europa League final in Baku. First, it was the majority of both teams’ fan bases. Next, it was the sponsors. Today, it was reported that the latest group to discover that Baku isn’t exactly the most welcoming destination in the world for the football family is the disabled community.
It turns out that only about 22 (yes, twenty two) disabled access tickets - six pairs to Arsenal supporters, four to Chelsea supporters - have been sold for the final. What would be an annoying, expensive six hour flight for an able bodied person takes on a whole other dimension for the disabled - just getting to the airport can be a major hassle, and using airports and airplanes can be extremely frustrating even on a non-stop flight. The expense of the flight would also double for many disabled passengers, who often pay for their carers to attend events with them.
Add in a layover or two, and someone with ambulatory or other issues requiring assistance would be forgiven for just thinking “fuck this, I’m going to stay home”. And that’s even before you get to Baku Olympic Stadium, with its...hold on, I’m just getting an update from my producer...zero useful facilities for disabled spectators of any kind at all.
There is a platformed section for disabled seating, but there is no open space in front of that platform; UEFA has cleared the rows in front of the platform, but that’s hacky at best. Apparently there’s also a shortage of accessible lodgings in Baku, and the Baku metro isn’t accessible either. Add it all up, and it’s a very inhospitable environment for those with accessibility challenges.
I think the most frustrating thing about all of this for me is that Arsenal are about to compete in a major European final, and NOBODY is talking about the game. Nobody’s excited about it. All people want to talk about is why it is where it is, and how much that it sucks that it’s there. I hope that the first couple days of next week can be spent getting excited about the fact that Arsenal are on the verge of winning a trophy they’ve never won before, because I’m getting tired of reading and writing about what a mess the actual location of the contest for said trophy is turning out to be.