Arsenal and Chelsea fans face ‘farcical’ two-day route to Europa League final stadium | UK News
Arsenal and Chelsea fans have been left scrambling to make a 2,500 mile trip to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku after they both won through to the Europa League final.
As Liverpool and Tottenham supporters plan a straightforward – albeit expensive – trip to Madrid for the Champions League final, those backing the Gunners and the Blues have got a complicated journey ahead of them if they wish to cheer on their teams at the Olympic Stadium on 29 May.
Baku is on the Caspian Sea coast of the former Soviet republic, making it further east from London than Middle Eastern cities like Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Damascus in Syria.
:: What’s the situation with flights?
There are no direct flights available between London and Baku in the days leading up to the showpiece match, with fans instead facing the prospect of stop-overs in various countries across Europe.
Depending on the choice of airlines and price of trips, connections will need to be made in the likes of Istanbul in Turkey and Vienna in Austria, with the longest total journey time coming in at a whopping 26 hours.
It can be done as quickly as nine hours by flying from Gatwick to the Turkish city of Antalya and then flying on to Baku from there, but none of the options appear ideal and would require booking several days off work.
According to Skyscanner, the shortest journey the day before the game is with Qatar Airways – it takes 10 hours and 25 minutes from Heathrow, including a stop in Doha.
But it is also one of the most expensive routes, coming in at £667.
Arsenal and Chelsea will both be offering supporter travel through Thomas Cook, but prices are likely to be high.
:: How else can you get to Baku?
For those wondering whether there are feasible alternatives to flying, it is possible to get to Baku by rail or road.
However, the former would involve days of travelling and an expensive trip on the Eurostar before hopping on several trains crossing Belgium, Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
Google Maps suggests driving there from London would take 58 hours – and that is with no traffic.
To make matters worse for the likely-to-be tired fans who make it to the game, it does not kick-off until 11pm local time to maximise the potential TV audience.
It will make the exciting prospect of watching their side in a European final completely unfeasible to many fans, and both clubs have only been allocated 6,000 tickets each at the 70,000-capacity stadium anyway.
:: Wait, there are only 6,000 tickets for each club?
While Liverpool and Spurs have got around 16,000 tickets each for their fans for the Champions League final, there are far fewer being made available to Arsenal and Chelsea.
They are priced between £17 for the lowest-category seat with an obstructed view, up to £121 for the best seats in the house, and can be bought via the Arsenal and Chelsea ticket offices with suitable membership credentials.
Arsenal are not happy with the allocation and are working with UEFA to secure more.
The north London club said: “It is inevitable that with an allocation of just 6,000 tickets for the final, there will be thousands of fans who have supported the club for years and been part of our Europa League journey this season, who will be unable to attend.”
:: Will fans bother to make the trip?
Chelsea supporters will be keen to go as their side have a fine record in recent European finals. The west Londoners won this competition in 2013 and the Champions League the year before.
Arsenal fans will be desperate to see their team succeed in Baku, as the Gunners have not won any European silverware since the now defunct Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994.
Arsenal blogger Tim Stillman is among the faithful to have already planned his trip, but said the “farcical” choice of venue for the final meant more than three days of travelling to get there and back.
After watching his side beat Valencia 4-2 in the second leg of their semi-final tie to secure a 7-3 aggregate win, he tweeted: “I booked to Baku before tonight. It’s taking two days to get there.
“Flying back to Venice after the game, which takes 25 hours with two stops. £800 and 3.5 days travelling total and I was on the ball and took a gamble booking first leg of journey before the second leg.
“I didn’t book cos I was confident, I did it cos there was little choice, financially or in terms of availability. I’m spending two of those nights in an airport and one on a train. I know London isn’t the centre of the universe, but this is a f****** farcical choice of venue.”
Chelsea fan Tommie Collins said his fellow supporters should boycott the game to make a point to UEFA over its choice of stadium, which is also due to host games at the European Championships next summer.
He tweeted: “We all knew Baku was the venue, but my problem is the brazen attitude of travel companies, airlines and the club ripping the fans off, Arsenal and CFC fans should boycott!
“There won’t be many travelling from UK, I for one won’t be, enough’s enough.”