Reaching a European final should be an exciting moment for a club’s fanbase. The morning after the night before, supporters should be cracking open Google Maps and working out how to get to mainland Europe via planes, trains and automobiles.
But it’s a little different this year in the Europa League. Rather than a stadium actually on the continent, UEFA have taken the smart decision to host the showpiece event in Baku, Azerbaijan. Now, we’re no experts, but we’re pretty sure that translates to “the middle of f*cking nowhere” in Latin.
Clearly this is a PR disaster for UEFA, not that they a rat’s arse about the fans who have been allocated just 6,000 tickets per club for the privilege of a 5,700-mile round trip. But we do care about them, which is exactly why we’ve come up with a list of far better alternative venues for the final…
It’s seemingly just as easy to infiltrate North Korea as it is getting to Baku, so why not add an element of intrigue and host the final in the world’s most secretive country?
As an added bonus, the city’s May Day Stadium is the biggest in the world, with a purported capacity for 150,000 spectators. That would allow UEFA to very generously give Arsenal and Chelsea a 6,001 allocation each instead, while also flogging another 80,000 or so expensive seats to corporate suits. Everybody wins!
European football’s governing body has long maintained that their mission is to spread football as far and wide as possible, hence bringing showpiece occasions to locations you may not traditionally think of.
The desolate frozen wastelands of Antarctica perfectly tick that box. Hosting Chelsea vs Arsenal on ice would be far more appealing for the 4,000 or so people who bravely inhabit the continent for scientific research than having to watch penguins and seals have it out for the umpteenth time.
3. The Moon
Rockets to the Moon take off as regularly as flights from London to Baku, so travel arrangements wouldn’t actually be too dissimilar. Also going in the Moon’s favour is its cold, heartless soul, opposition to having any atmosphere and a serious lack of facilities for those who travel there. It’s basically UEFA’s dream location.
4. A disused nuclear bunker
Should the Europa League final be played in a giant Cold War bunker cut off from the outside world, UEFA must give fans the option to stay there for as long as they need to avoid the fallout of Tottenham or Liverpool winning the Champions League. A venue truly with the fans’ best interests in mind.
5. Beside an active volcano
With European games having taken place in dangerous locations and war-torn countries in years gone by, it doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to envisage UEFA switching this year’s final to a mountain spewing hot lava. Indeed, it actually wouldn’t surprise us if an early incarnation of UEFA were hosting the Roman Empire’s European Final in Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius went boom. Bastards.
6. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
A state-of-the-art stadium in London that’s available? Tick. A comparable capacity for ticket allocations? Tick. Bars that pour pints upwards? Tick. But most importantly, it’d be nice for people inside Tottenham’s home stadium to actually experience what it’s like to win silverware – albeit none of them being Spurs fans.
Given the Europa League final is being contested between two London clubs with huge fanbases, the logical decision would be to play the match at a 90,000 capacity stadium in the same city. That would also sensibly mean fans simply have to pay for a £10 travelcard to get to the game, rather than shelling out 100x that – just for a flight.
But this is UEFA we’re talking about, which is exactly why it won’t happen. So if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to see how long the drive to Baku is – if we can get a flight to nearby Baghdad.