Time for UEFA to rethink Champions League finals
With Manchester United and Chelsea fans scrambling frantically for match tickets, flights, hotel rooms and visas for the Champions League final in Moscow, should UEFA now rethink the way it awards its showpiece event?
Many senior UEFA officials have admitted the violence which marred last year’s final between AC Milan and Liverpool in Athens was caused in some way by the fact the stadium was “not fit for purpose”. In other words it was an Olympic Stadium and not a true soccer stadium.
This prompted UEFA chief Michel Platini last September to change some of the parameters from 2009, such as moving the final to a Saturday and increasing the minumum capacity to 60,000.
Platini said he wanted to bring the final closer to the fans, in particular families. But how many families will travel to Moscow, even if they can afford to?
Many officials, supporters and members of the media believe it is time for a further rethink on how the venue is selected and say the system must be more flexible.
Some officials close to Platini have told me that the former France international himself favours awarding the final closer to the time, rather than the current system whereby the host is chosen two to three years in advance.
Would it not make more sense to host this year’s final at Wembley rather than forcing thousands of English fans with tickets to travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of pounds?
The political difficulties between Moscow and London could add to the problem but the governing body says its hands are tied and the venue cannot be changed.
With the possibility of further finals featuring teams from the same country becoming more likely, maybe UEFA should merely draw up a shortlist of stadiums capable of holding European soccer’s top game and pick the venue at the quarter-final or semi-final stage?
Wouldn’t this make life more easier for everyone — UEFA, the clubs, the players and most of all the supporters?
Darren Ennis, Brussels
PHOTO: A general view of Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, which will host the Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea later this month. May 2 REUTERS/Mikhail Voskresenskiy