It’s Baku or bust for Mick, but Reggie has to miss Arsenal final
One Gunners fan with match tickets is priced out of trip while another digs deep to be there
24 May, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
THE extent of the Baku bungle is summed up by the tale of two fans.
One will be sitting in the Olympic Stadium having splashed out more than £1,000 just to travel there, while the other will be back in Islington missing an Arsenal cup final for the first time.
Neither supporter is happy with Uefa, the European governing body, and both feel it’s another example of football fans being marginalised.
Reggie Hagland had initially not expected to get a ticket for the Europa League final when it was announced that Chelsea and Arsenal would receive only 6,000 each for a match played in a 68,700-seater stadium.
So he quickly coughed up £163 when he was offered two tickets through his gold season ticket membership.
But “alarm bells” started ringing when he heard that friends in the lower-tier silver and red memberships were being offered tickets.
There are no direct flights to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, on Wednesday, the day of the final, with only three scheduled every week.
The cheapest one-way ticket the day before costs more than £700, according to flight comparison site Sky Scanner.
Unless he took days off work, Mr Hagland realised that the full trip was going to cost at least £2,000, including accommodation and refreshments.
The Islington Boxing Club manager said: “Is this supposed to be a football match for loyal fans who have followed their team all year? Or is it just a showpiece for Uefa and a tourism advert for Baku?
“To be honest with you, I’m just disappointed. Physically, I can’t get to the final unless there’s some kind of miracle. It will be the first final I have missed in many years.”
Thomas Cook is offering non-stop charter flights from £979 to fans who have bought a ticket.
The alternative for fans contemplating the 11,000-mile round trip are routes that take days, with flights stopping in Istanbul, Bahrain and Doha.
As the Tribune has reported, Arsenal released a statement last week criticising Uefa for allocating the club only 6,000 tickets.
Mr Hagland added: “At first, I was disappointed like most people that us and Chelsea would only be getting 6,000 tickets as I felt at the time there would be no chance to be able to get a ticket.
“Now I don’t think the full allocation will be filled by either team. I hope there are plenty of empty seats in Baku and that shows Uefa up.”
Mr Hagland sold his tickets at face value on Wednesday.
Diehard Arsenal fan Mick Doherty, known as the Archway One, has paid £1,150 for a direct flight from London to Baku.
He said: “I feel sorry for all the fans who can’t go, to be honest. It is a disgraceful situation. We have 6,000 tickets each and the fact we can’t sell them out tells the story.
“I can see it being a half-empty stadium out there. But I’m going out whatever happens. Arsenal would sell out Europe five times over if only we could get there.”
An Arsenal spokeswoman said: “On behalf of our fans, we would like to understand the criteria by which venues are selected for finals.
“What has happened this season is unacceptable, and cannot be repeated. We would be happy to join any future discussions to avoid this situation happening again.”
Uefa was contacted for a comment but did not respond.
A petition to change the venue of the Europa League final has received more than 500 signatures. To see the petition, go to www.change.org and search “get Uefa to change the venue”.