Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has backed criticism by Chelsea and Arsenal fans over the choice of Baku for this month’s Europa League final and said that UEFA needed to address the way it selected host cities.
Fans of the London rivals face a more than 8,000km round trip to attend the match in the Azerbaijan capital on May 29.
While Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur supporters have expressed their annoyance at the eye-watering prices for airfare and hotel rooms for the Champions League final in Madrid, Klopp said that Chelsea and Arsenal fans have it even tougher.
“I think with Madrid it’s unbelievably expensive, that’s clear, but going to Baku for a Europa League final, that’s really funny,” Klopp told reporters on Friday, as questions veered away from his side’s potential domestic title decider against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield today.
“I think these guys who made these decisions, I don’t know what they had for breakfast really when they did it,” he said.
With no direct flights to Baku from London, fans face journey times of up to 14 hours depending on connections.
How many fans actually make the trip is debatable, with each club being offered only about 6,000 tickets.
Chelsea’s Supporters’ Trust called the allocation “totally inadequate,” while board member Tim Rolls told the BBC that his journey would involve a seven-hour bus ride from Tbilisi.
“Baku is one of the most inaccessible cities in Europe from the UK,” Rolls said. “There are few flights and those there are are prohibitively expensive.”
UEFA defended the choice, saying that it was impossible to predict in advance which clubs would reach the final.
It also said that it would have been irresponsible to offer more tickets with limited transport options to Baku.
“Taking into consideration the geographical location and logistical capacity of airports in and around the host city, it was deemed that around 15,000 spectators would be able to travel from abroad,” UEFA said. “Offering more tickets to fans of the participating teams, without any guarantee that they would be able to arrange suitable travel, was therefore not a responsible option.”
Earlier on Friday, Tottenham and Liverpool fan organizations issued a joint statement condemning the cost of getting to the June 1 Champions League final in Madrid, saying that “supporters’ joy has been tempered by the extortionate costs of travel, accommodation and tickets.”
Return airfares have spiraled to as much as ￡1,500 (US$1,949).
Even Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said that he was having trouble finding accommodation for his family.
“Yesterday I was calling some hotel in Madrid to try to book some rooms because I don’t know if my family is going to be there, friends, people from Argentina,” he told a news conference. “But it was very difficult. The prices are crazy. It’s not normal, but it’s normal that people take this opportunity to benefit and I am suffering for both sets of fans, ours and Liverpool’s.”
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