(Reuters) – UEFA have defended their decision to stage the Europa League final in Baku following a letter from finalists Arsenal, who sought an explanation from European soccer’s governing body because of the inconvenience caused to their travelling fans.
Arsenal face Chelsea at Azerbaijan’s Baku Olympic Stadium on May 29 with supporters struggling to secure flights for the near 6,000-mile round trip as well as accommodation ahead of the club’s first European final in 13 years.
“UEFA has committed to appoint hosts only via a fair and transparent bidding process where the candidates have to provide evidence of their ability to stage the event on the basis of a number of criteria,” UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti said in a statement.
“The bidding process for a club competition final is held a couple of years in advance, meaning that the exact circumstances in which the final will have to be organised cannot be known at the time of the appointment.”
UEFA said an all-English final played by two London teams was not a predictable event at the time when the venue was decided and promised to work with both clubs to assist fans.
“There is little doubt that this has added significant difficulties to the event logistics,” the statement added.
“We’re really sorry for the problems your (and Chelsea’s) fans are encountering trying to organise their journey to Baku. Our experts are keenly working on this matter with a view to help find cheaper solutions for travelling fans.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)