Some Arsenal fans are finding themselves unable to attend the Europa League final in Baku, even if they have a ticket and flights booked, simply because of their nationality.
With every day, the decision to host the Europa League final in Baku appears more ridiculous.
The difficulty and cost of travel to reach Azerbaijan is so high that UEFA openly admit that’s why they’ve given Arsenal and Chelsea fans such tiny allocations (6,000 seats in a 68,700 capacity stadium).
Then there’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who may not be able to take part over concerns about his safety as an Armenian playing in Azerbaijan.
Guardian writer Amy Lawrence made the point that this is being rather brushed over because Mkhitaryan isn’t the most important member of Arsenal’s squad. If Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t go, for example, you’d imagine this would be taken much more seriously.
It’s not only Mkhitaryan, though. There are reports all over social media of Armenian Arsenal members and season ticket holders who have been advised against attending or blocked completely due to their nationality.
We’ve been contacted by members & learned that some ST holders, who are eligible for a ticket cannot go as they are British – Armenian. They’ve been advised not to go to Baku (visa likely to be rejected). It’s very disappointing to have a final where some fans can’t go. @UEFA
— AST (@AST_arsenal) May 15, 2019
Old friend of mine has been blocked from attending the Europa final by Azerbaijan government, seemingly due to his Armenian descent. Arsenal supporter for 35 years, had a ticket & travel booked. Am told club won’t intervene or criticise the policy. Bravo @UEFA & @Arsenal
— Gingers for Limpar (@Gingers4Limpar) May 16, 2019
It’s bizarre that this was considered an acceptable location to hold the final. The majority of top teams in the competition would have trouble getting their fans to Baku, not just because it’s far away, but because the airport is small and there are so few alternative travel options, before we get into the various visa problems for supporters.
Having been to Baku in the group stage, I can safely say the public transport between the airport and the stadium is limited at best. There’s one bus running a couple of times an hour, which could maybe get a few hundred fans to and from the ground, not thousands.
Arsenal have publicly stated their disappointment and described what has happened as ‘unacceptable’. Let’s hope Chelsea join them in expressing the same sentiment and UEFA puts the bare minimum amount of thought into their selection of future venues.