After the disaster that was Baku in May, not just on the pitch from an Arsenal point of view, fan groups representing the four European finalists last season have come together to issue a statement regarding how these games are managed by UEFA.
The Gunners had to do without Henrikh Mkhitaryan due to his nationality, while fans were hugely inconvenienced by the location which was difficult and very expensive to get to.
The Arsenal Supporters Trust, along with Chelsea Supporters Trust, Spirit of Shankly and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust issued a statement this morning, ahead of this season’s Champions League and Europa League draws.
It reads as follows.
Reaching a UEFA Champions League or Europa League final should be a wonderful experience for a club’s supporters. Instead, they can face a struggle just to attend the match. Problems range from inadequate numbers of tickets being awarded to the finalists through to all-but-impossible travel arrangements. Too often fans who had supported their clubs in every round up to the final were left out of pocket or not able to attend the final at all.
We have drawn up a six-point action plan to improve the supporter experience. It has been referred to the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and Football Supporters Europe (FSE). We now call on UEFA to engage in meaningful dialogue with supporters and address these points.
80% of tickets should be made available to the two competing finalists, with the remaining 20% for sponsors, the football family, key stakeholders and a small general sale.
Only stadiums with large capacities should be selected to ensure maximum ticket availability. We suggest 60,000 or greater for the Europa League final; 75,000 for the Champions League final.
Ticket pricing for the final has to be fair and affordable. There should be a stretch pricing policy allowing choice for fans.
The final venue must have the highest standards for accessibility for people with disabilities, including travel access to the stadium; sufficient food, drink and washroom facilities; and have not been subject to a UEFA charge for the treatment of fans for at least 24 months prior to the final.
The location of the final venue should be a city with excellent transport links, including the capacity to deal with additional charter flights, and ideally good rail links to nearby cities and airports; bed-space capacity to deal with the large number of visitors.
The host country must abide by a human-rights and equality policy that ensures no discrimination or denial of right of entry is applied to any player or supporter travelling to the final.
Tomorrow’s much-hyped draw will involve everybody from the football family except the very people without whom there would be no European football – its supporters. We call upon UEFA to strengthen its dialogue with fans and request that they start by engaging with groups such as ourselves to discuss the proposals to improve arrangements for fans at the final stages of the Champions and Europa Leagues.
Arsenal Supporters Trust
Chelsea Supporters Trust
Spirit of Shankly, Liverpool Supporters Union
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust
In a week when Bury have gone to the wall, and Bolton look set to follow, it’s worth remembering that despite rivalries, fans are much more powerful if they can set aside differences and speak with one voice about the issues which affect football as a whole.
Whether UEFA listen remains to be seen. You can’t help but be cynical, but it’s important to speak out because silence makes us complicit in the decisions they take and let’s them get away with even more.