Jose Mourinho has expressed his sympathy to Arsenal and Chelsea fans who are unable to attend the Europa League final in Baku while pointing out there is much more pressure on Arsenal to win the game than his old club.
“There is more pressure for Arsenal than for Chelsea because they play the entire season in a game,” Mourinho helpfully pointed out on Sky Sports. “There is a place in the Champions League, many millions … That is why they have more pressure.”
He then addressed the issue of the fans who cannot attend the match for a number of reasons, from the expense of travelling to Azerbaijan, to the poor allocation of tickets, to those fans with Armenian heritage being refused visas.
“I am sorry for the fans of Chelsea and Arsenal who can not be in Baku to support their teams,” he said.
UEFA’s own report stated that Baku was not fit to host the Champions League or Europa League final, claiming that local university dormitories and campsites would be needed to house supporters.
UEFA have made just 12,000 tickets available to Arsenal and Chelsea fans because they say the city’s infrastructure cannot deal with any more than that. This seems like something they should have been aware of when they awarded the game to the city back in 2017.
Turns out they were.
‘The number of hotel rooms within a 60km radius of the stadium falls short of UEFA requirements for a Champions League final and the city could accommodate only a very limited number of fans and sponsors in standard hotels,’ a UEFA valuation report stated.
‘Mitigation measures such as campsites, university dormitories and guest houses would need to be investigated.’
They opted to move to Champions League final to Madrid, handing Baku the Europa League final instead because the fans of teams in that competition don’t matter as much apparently.
However, the same report warned that even a smaller Europa League final would be problematic for Baku.
Thankfully for UEFA, Arsenal and Chelsea’ inability to sell their full allocation due to the nightmare logistics of just getting to the country means that they should have enough hotel rooms for the three people who turn up.
Uefa knew exactly what they were doing when they handed the final to Baku. It wasn’t about ‘spreading the game’ as they claim, it was about sucking up to another oil-rich nation. It was given to a country on the far edge of the Caspian Sea for the same reason Fifa gave the World Cup to Qatar.
Football at the top level is no longer about the game or the fans, it’s about cold, hard cash.