'It seriously needs to be looked at': Ex-Chelsea keeper Bosnich slams UEL final ticket allocation
A mere 12,000 tickets have been made available to the two Premier League rivals who boast a combined weekly average attendance of over 100,000 supporters, meaning on May 29th they will make up one fifth of the 68,700 capacity Baku Olympic Stadium, with a large volume of seats going into the hands of UEFA’s corporate sponsors.
The final has faced a plethora of problems before a ball has been kicked in Baku; aside from allocation worries, practical shortcomings in the city’s infrastructure, namely the city’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport being unable to deal with a greater influx of fans arriving in the city on the same day, have made the choice of the North Caucasus nation for the final a matter of ridicule.
Ironically, large numbers of fans who have grown apathetic to the fallout are now reportedly looking to return tickets in an attempted boycott of what they see as unnecessary geographical and logistical awkwardness of traveling to the game and directly imposed by UEFA's choice of host venue.
UEFA have meanwhile remained steadfast in their decision, claiming the hosts were appointed “via a fair and transparent bidding process” at which time circumstances surrounding the final, including which teams would participate, could not have been adequately foreseen.
Bosnich spent two seasons at Stamford Bridge from 2003 to 2005 after establishing himself at Aston Villa, winning a brace of League Cups, and later at Manchester United where he added a Premier League winners medal to his collection.
Speaking to RT on Skype from his native Australia, Bosnich said he believes that while UEFA are right to share tournament finals, the mismatched allocation is “something that need to be looked at” as fans of the clubs “deserve the bulk of the tickets”.
“First and foremost, UEFA is up there with the biggest federations with 55 members. You do need to share these big tournaments and big finals everywhere because they are part of Europe. I think that needs to happen,” the 47-year-old former pro said.
“But the fact that you have two teams, one teams got an average crowd of about 65,000, the other one gets an average crowd of 40,000. Two massive sides and you’re only allowing 6,000 tickets to each of those sides.
“That’s something that really needs to be looked at. Because in my book whether those clubs come from England or wherever, they deserved the bulk of the tickets and if they didn’t use those tickets they could always give them back. That needs to be looked at for the future."
Among the problems surrounding the final, there are more sinister elements to be considered: Arsenal recently confirmed Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryanin - one of his side's star players this season - will not travel with the squad over fears for his safety, given the fractious history between his native country and Azerbaijan, which have included two wars in just over a century.
That alone seems to be at conflict with UEFA values to facilitate inclusivity. The threat of terrorist attacks in the city center has also seen a UK Home Office warning issued to travelling fans, making ticket worries seem inconsequential in comparison.
Whatever happens in Baku, an English team will be crowned Europa League winner, ditto for the Champions League three days later, as Liverpool take on Tottenham Hotspur in the final of Europe’s premier competition. It’s the first time in history one nation can boast four teams in both finals of Europe’s top two tournaments, something which Bosnich believes confirms the unequaled quality of the Premier League.
“Well I think it’s fantastic for English football. In terms of a gauge to see how strong your league is you always look to international tournaments to provide that and I think we’ve seen that this season and how strong the Premier League is and has become,” says Bosnich, who spent a total 13 years in England’s top flight.
“In terms of European football, there’s a lot of divided opinion on whether its a good thing or not. Me personally, I think if a country is good enough and the teams are good enough to get into a final, it can only press other countries like Italy or Spain or Germany to become better, to do the same thing to emulate it. I think it is a good thing but a lot of people would be saying ‘no it’s not’.
In recent years English football has played catch up to the mystique, flair, and overall dominance of Spanish teams, with nine of the last ten winners of all European trophies hailing from the Iberian nation.
Domestically, La Liga provided the stage to season after season of stunning 'El Clasico' installments, rightly hailed as the most enthralling club football match on the planet, long featuring titanic clashes between the planets two best players in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. This year, English football has managed to escape from Spain's shadow on the biggest stage of all.
“Slowly but surely the Premier League was built, and I think also the fact they started to bring in the best of foreigners - yes there’s been some hit and misses but that’s understandable - but it raised the standard completely,” Bosnich says.
“Now added to that over the last 15/16 years or more some of the best managers and right now arguably the best manager has really taken it to a different level. So it really has become in my opinion an international league and one that I think everyone that has been associated with the Premier League can be very proud of.”
Almost exactly a year after the world sniggered as English football fans sang "football's coming home" only forThe Three Lions fell short at the semi-final stage, England will reclaim a large chunk of club football pride this season - something only a select number of fans will be able to witness.Also on rt.com Henri-KO: Arsenal confirm Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final over safety concerns in Azerbaijan