With just five days to go until the Europa League final, and in response to the Supporters’ Trust strong criticisms, Chelsea have finally released an official statement acknowledging the difficulties fans face in trying to get to Baku for the match.
Unfortunately, that’s about all it does, and it stops well short of even token criticism of UEFA (not a single direct mention) or, more importantly, offering any sort of solutions for the fans. Then again, it probably would’ve been too little too late anyway, with the final coming up on Wednesday already.
“We sympathise with the problems our supporters face organising travel to Azerbaijan for the game, and would like to reassure fans that alongside Arsenal and our travel partners at Thomas Cook Sport, we have looked at various options to help them get to Baku.
“Unfortunately, a number of factors outside the club’s control have made organisation a complicated and challenging process. This includes the location of the final being 2,500 miles from London, a lack of available charter aircraft and transport infrastructure which limited the number of flights able to arrive in Baku around the final.”
Chelsea’s statement acknowledges that the organizers in Baku have offered another option, traveling through Tbilisi, but this has been deemed not “satisfactory” for the club to endorse as an option. Fair enough, though having to mention that Thomas Cook Sport are reportedly going through “financial difficulties” doesn’t exactly engender trust in travel options that were club-endorsed, either.
The statement also explains why a beamback cannot be hosted at Stamford Bridge (unlike, say, Spurs are providing for the Champions League final), as a fundraising event hosted by the Chelsea Foundation and Plan UK is set to take place that day.
“For those not travelling, please be aware that Stamford Bridge will not be hosting a beamback screening of the match. We are unable to do so due to a large event taking place at the stadium that has been in the diary for some time.”
Then again, the event starts at 9:30am, while the match itself isn’t until 8pm London time. If Chelsea really wanted to organize something, a beamback could also surely be hosted at some other location.
In any case, at least we got a statement from the club — full text on the official website — even if it did little to change the situation or at least promise to do better next time.