The fallout from UEFA’s decision to host the Europa League final in Baku continues with news that a number of British-Armenian Arsenal season ticket holders have been denied visas to enter the country.
The Times (£) report that Arsenal are now trying to find out from the Foreign Office whether exerting pressure on the Azerbaijan government, who have no diplomatic relations with Armenia due to a conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, will result in them making exceptions for those eager to watch us on 29 May.
It’s believed that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been granted a visa but that Unai Emery is yet to make a decision about whether to take the midfielder due to fears for his safety and any ensuing disruption that could cause to our build-up to the game.
As you’re all aware, Arsenal and Chelsea have only been allocated 6,000 seats each for the 68,000 capacity Olympic stadium. UEFA seemed to justify their decision by suggesting the local infrastructure couldn’t cope with a bigger influx of visitors. Obviously, that leads to questions about Baku’s suitability as a venue for such a high-profile game.
The visa issue, coupled with the expense of embarking on a ridiculously challenging journey, has put off swathes of Arsenal supporters making the journey. What’s left of our 6,000 allocation has gone on sale to Red members – an unprecedented situation for a final.
In a statement released today, Arsenal criticised UEFA for the decision to host the match in Baku.
“We are bitterly disappointed by the fact that due to transport limitations Uefa can only make a maximum of 6,000 tickets available to Arsenal for a stadium with a capacity of well over 60,000. Time will tell if it is even possible for 6,000 Arsenal fans to attend the match, given how extreme the travel challenges are.
“We have 45,000 season-ticket holders and for so many fans to miss out due to Uefa selecting a final venue with such limited transport provision is quite simply not right. The reality is that whoever reached the final would not be able to meet demand from their supporters.
“We have received many complaints from our fans about this and we fully share their concerns.
“On behalf of our fans, we would like to understand the criteria by which venues are selected for finals, and also how supporter requirements are taken into account as part of this.
“Moving forward we would urge Uefa to ensure that supporter logistics and requirements are a key part of any future decisions for final venues as 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.”