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 soccer’s European governing body UEFA needed to address the way it selected host cities. Fans of the two London rivals face a more than 8,000 km round trip to attend the all-Premier League clash next to the Caspian Sea in the Azerbaijan capital on May 29.
While Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur supporters have expressed their annoyance at the eye-watering prices for air fares and hotel rooms for the Champions League final in Madrid, Klopp said Chelsea and Arsenal fans had 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 on Sunday.
“I think these guys who made these decisions, I don’t know what they had for breakfast really when they did it.
“Last year we went to Kiev (for the Champions League final) which is a wonderful city but it was not really likely a Russian team or a team from that part of the world would be involved.”
With no direct flights to Baku from London, fans face journey times of up to 14 hours depending on connections.
“These decisions they must be much more sensible,” Klopp said. “It looks irresponsible, I don’t know how they do it and I sympathise a lot with the fans.”
How many fans actually make the trip is debatable with each club being offered only around 6,000 tickets.
Chelsea’s Supporters’ Trust described the allocation as “totally inadequate” while board member Tim Rolls told the BBC his journey would involve a seven-hour bus ride from Tbilisi.
“Baku is one of the most inaccessible cities in Europe from the UK,” said Rolls. “There are few flights and those there are are prohibitively expensive.”
UEFA defended the choice of venue, saying it was impossible to predict in advance which clubs will reach the final.
It also said 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 with Baku as the main hub,” 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 organisations issued a joint statement condemning the cost of getting to the June 1 Champions League final in Madrid, saying “supporters’ joy has been tempered by the extortionate costs of travel, accommodation and tickets”.
Return air fares have spiralled to as much as 1,500 pounds ($1,950) while rates for hotel rooms in the Spanish capital have reached eye-watering levels.
Even Tottenham’s Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino said 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.”