Thursday May 10, 2012 at 1:17pm
Ticket allocation has been much in the news recently, whether it’s the shambles that is the Olympics (and that keeps going, too with yesterday’s news that another 900,000 tickets are going on sale to those that have been unsuccessful twice before) or Liverpool and Chelsea fans moaning about their amounts for the FA Cup final.
But all of this pales into insignificance when compared to what happened last night with the Europa League. Atletico Madrid beat Bilbao 3-0 in Bucharest, but there were just 9000 fans of each club there – in a crowd of over 52,000.
This is verging on the disgraceful but yet it is entirely in keeping with the ridiculous, overblown and rather pointless monster that is the Europa League. As well as qualifying on merit (which there is no problem with),teams get in it as a sort of consolation prize for being not good enough for the champions league, get in it for being good boys (Fair Play League? Seriously….?) or for losing the cup final to a team that was already in the “big” competition.
If that isn’t enough, the teams that have small squads but are unfortunate enough to be in it then see their seasons ruined by playing games on Thursday’s, Sundays, then sometimes Wednesday’s if there’s no Champions League – with a 5pm kick off if you are really unlucky like Manchester City were earlier in the season.
The reason for this kick off time tells you all you need to know about how UEFA views the Europa Cup. It kicked off at 5pm because there was a Champions League game on the same night and UEFA rules stipulate that a Europa League game cannot kick off at the same time as CL one. Not that it’s the poor relation or anything like that.
The amount of tickets available to the fans of the respective clubs in Europa finals is nothing new, though. Fulham fans were up in arms the other year when they received 12650 tickets, for example.
Even in the Champions League things aren’t much better. For the game in Munich next week, Chelsea have been given just 17,500 tickets. From this we can conclude just how low down the pecking order fans are in UEFA’s thoughts.
In their defence they do have a ballot for neutrals and they do have sponsors to satisfy. For the money they give these sponsors are perhaps entitled to see some tickets coming their way, but the amount seems to be out of kilter. If the remit of UEFA is to protect the game in Europe then largely it seems they aren’t doing the best job they could.
Governing bodies seem on occasion to forget that they have responsibilities to supporters and also to the history of the game. The tickets are expensive, but that is not just UEFA’s issue – at the FA Cup final last weekend, those fans who were lucky enough to get tickets were charged on average £80 for the privilege. However, people will pay for big matches, just like they will for concerts, shows, posh restaurants or whatever and there is no doubt that with the Champions League – love it or loathe it – UEFA have hit on a formula that works, both in terms of attracting TV audiences and fans to the matches. This is less the case with the Europa League, and they perhaps need to think about a way to make the competition mean more and make it less bloated and more appealing.
Giving genuine fans the chance to buy more of the tickets would be a good way to start.