We finished fifth in the PL and I don’t think many can say they enjoyed the last two months of this season’s Arsenal campaign. As this is regarded by most of us as a transitional year, we are glad to see the back of it. As poor as we played in the PL, as good we played in the UEFA league; good as in winning performances, even though the quality of the overall football was still below Weng-era par. But fair is fair to Unai, he got us to the final in Baku and we have a fantastic chance to bring home some rare European silverware.
I know that winning the final in Baku will also allow us to play in the CL next year, but I, for one, care less about this. Having grown up with the romance of European football in three different competitions, I find it very disappointing that the only cup that really matters nowadays is the one with the ‘big ears’. The EL has been moved to Spursday nights and the biggest ‘price’ is a ticket to the multi-millions of the CL, rather than the honour and joy of winning the competition itself.
But what irritates me more than anything is this final is played at the very other end of Europe by two London based clubs who have only been given 6000 tickets each, a mere 10% of the total capacity of the stadium.
As of yesterday, the only way to get there by plane on the day is with two stops or you can fly directly to Baku on 25 May, four days before the final takes place. By car it is a non-stop 59 hours drive apparently. So the investment by supporters, both in terms of money and time, is enormous and the impact on the environment in terms of CO2 production is ridiculous.
Our sons and daughters are becoming disillusioned about their ability to live safely and healthily in the mid to late 21st century and quite rightly so. I am also worried for them. Yet UEFA did not think twice about awarding the UEFA Cup final to Baku. They made the decision a few years ago and it was no doubt based on money, and ‘impact on environment’ was probably not even one of the criteria. This is not good enough anymore.
So only 20% of the tickets are sold to the fans of the clubs in the final and they then have to make huge investments to actually get to the final. The clubs and their fans matter less and less… we are actually taken for granted. Where do the other 80% of the tickets go?!
Finally, UEFA has a big responsibility regarding the environment and should think much more carefully regarding where finals should take place. Instead of awarding cities these finals years in advance they should wait and see who in April of each year is still in the competition. Based on the location of the semi-final clubs UEFA can decide where finals could potentially take place based on capacity, transport options AND environmental impact. Clearly, the final between Arsenal and the Chavs should be held at Wembley (or if necessary in Paris or Brussels if we believe it should be in another country). That would have been a responsible choice rather than asking the clubs’ supporters to spend enormous amounts of cash whilst pumping huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere to get there and back. Common sense is required ffs.