Time for UEFA to rethink Champions League finals

May 2, 2008

Luzhniki Stadium

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


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You gotta love how the Champions League final has Manchester United and another English club playing each other in Russia. While the UEFA Cup final has a Russian club playing… in Manchester, England.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

If you chose the final venue based on the geographical location of the competing sides, you would not only end up with most finals being played in a very reduced number of stadia (particularly given that over the last 20 years most finalists have been from England, Spain or Italy); you would also have to have a much longer gap between semifinals and final to enable the hosts to get organised. This is probably why the venues are chosen so far in advance.

In this particular instance, if you’d picked Wembley as the venue at the semifinal stage but then did not end up with an all-English final, you would lay yourself open to charges of unfairness.

This does not detract from the fact that Moscow is a particularly inconvenient location to hold the final – not so much the cost element, but the visa requirements and the lack of accommodation are unsustainable with a mere two weeks between semifinal and final.


Posted by Gonzalo | Report as abusive

The suggestion that Western Europe should monopolize such events is ridiculous and even greedy.

It is EUROPE’s Champions League and WESTERN EUROPE’s.

Most European countries already see their best players monopolized by the leagues in only four countries, so this is one of the few opportunities for people ouside these four countries to see the best players.

Moreover, the obstacles that people outside the EU face to watch such matches when they are staged in EU countries are 10 times higher than what English players will face in traveling to Moscow. If English fans cannot take the heat, they should ask the British government to ablish visas between Russia and the UK.

t is a inult to English fans to suggest that they are too dumb to endure the “hardship” of making their way to Moscow. There is the alternative of watching it on TV.

Posted by Vincent | Report as abusive

How exactly is it ‘increasingly more likely’ that the final will feature teams from the same country from now on? There have been 4 teams each from 3 leagues for a while and an ‘all-country’ final has only happened 3 times and there have been times when some of those leagues have been far and away the most dominant in Europe too and yet, still failed to have 2 finalists. Please stop the Prem gushing.

If they want to make this really easy, disband UEFA and make 1 FA for European Union nations and they can have a Champion’s League and 1 for non-EU states that has their own Champion’s League and move on from there. It’s pretty nuts that they don’t have a Visa waiver agreement with all nations in UEFA. Even CONCACAF has that with the sole exception of the US-Cuba travel restrictions and Cuba really doesn’t participate in the sport much anyway.
Seems simple to me.

Posted by papa bear | Report as abusive

It is unreasonable to suggest that changing the rules would create a Western European monopoly as there is nothing to stop Eastern European countries improving their football. The problem with the current arrangements are that they don’t show any consideration for the fans of the competing teams. They are the ones that should be helped: everyone else will be watching on television regardless of where the game is held, apart from people given tickets they don’t deserve by UEFA. Why does UEFA need to take 27,000 tickets away from the fans? I would cut its allocation to two tickets: one for the president of UEFA, and one for a deputy who can hand over the trophy if he is taken ill.

Posted by Oliver Chetttle | Report as abusive

Vincent the reason why there are VISA problems between the UK and Russia is that Russia is an authoritarian country that cannot be trusted in the same way as a developed country. The situation is entirely Russia’s fault, and it will only change when Russia modernises.

Posted by Oliver Chetttle | Report as abusive

[…] Time for a Champions League final rethink? (Reuters Soccer Blog) […]

Posted by Daily Dose 5.3.08 | The Offside | Report as abusive

UEFA should have changed the venue last Thursday morning to Wembley.

Posted by areallaticfromthesouth | Report as abusive

Oliver Chetttle,

There are visas between Russia and Britian not because Russia is an authoritarian state “that cannot be trusted” but because there are visas between EU and all non-EU countries.

Despite all the Western propaganda, I don’t think Russia is more evil than Britain. At least Russia is not helping to muder 1 million Iraqis because of greed for oil. Unlike Britain, Russia is not built on numerous genocides committed around the world and riches looted from other countries…

So, let us leave politics out of football.

If Russians have to obtain visas to enter Britain, then the English should not complain when they are asked to obtain Russian visas. If they are not happy they should stay at home.

Chelsea was built with Russian money, so the Russians at least deserve to see what their money built.

Posted by Vincent | Report as abusive

the suggestion to switch the final to wembley just smacks of premier league arrogance in my opinion. if the decision has been made to host the final at a particular venue (no matter how ill-thought out, as russia clearly is) it can’t just be changed on the whims of others depending on who makes the final. switching it to wembley would render it no more prestigious than an fa cup final.

in all honesty a country that requires a visa should never have been selected in the first place – that would have saved a lot of aggro.

Posted by Justfootball | Report as abusive

I think that the English should just “get on with it” and make the most out of this situation – it could be a lot of fun all around in Moscow…

Posted by Beautifulgamer | Report as abusive

UEFA President Michel Platini was present at Heysel in 1985 when 39 football fans perished due to a combination of criminal negligence and stupidity on behalf of a minority of fans, and criminal negligence and incompetence on behalf of UEFA.

UEFA decided to hold a football match in a stadium that was falling apart and poorly policed, despite pleas from Liverpool Chief Executive Peter Robinson amongst others to change the venue.

In Istanbul 2005, the stadium was a nightmare to get to, little transport, in the middle of nowhere with no thought as to how late the game might run.

Athens was held in an Athletics Stadium with not a single turnstile!

The stadium in Moscow has already had one disaster in which up to 300 people died.

When will UEFA listen to common sense and put the fans health and safety before their own political and financial interests?

Posted by Paul Saeed | Report as abusive

uefa… what a joke !……who did they think would be in the final ?…..two russsian teams ?……………why the hassle over visas now !……only three weeks from the final

Posted by richie dodds | Report as abusive

just because there are two Enlgish teams in the final we are having this discussion about changing the venue and reconsidering the selection process.
why are the English so prone to complaining, why cant they see it as an occasion to go abroad and see a good game of football. With a Russian team being involved in the final of the UEFA Cup will the British government allow Russians fans to arrive into the country with their tickets as a proof of VISA.

Posted by Mogambo Kush Hoah | Report as abusive

richie dodds, justfootball,arealfanaticfromthesouth, the offside – reply to my points

Posted by Mogambo Kush Hoah | Report as abusive

To answer that last point, I think you have to recognise that a trip to Russia (where hotel rooms are ludicrously expensive) is just gonna be beyond the means of the vast majority of fans.
These days, there must be a number of stadiums that could host an event like the Champions League final at the drop of a hat. I wonder therefore if UEFA shouldn’t leave it until much later in the day to make a decision. With three English sides plus Barcelona in the semi-finals, UEFA might easily have picked one from a shortlist of, say, Paris, Munich, Rome, Berlin, Lisbon, etc, etc and been sure to get a neutral venue, easily reachable by the fans.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

“reachable by the fans” – why dont the English fans complain about travelling to the world cups and european championships

Posted by Mogambo Kush Hoah | Report as abusive

English fans like travelling, they simply resent the fact that UEFA expects tens of thousands of supporters, from whichever country reaches a final, to turn up for a football match when it is clear that UEFA have given very little thought to their safety. Surely, it is not beyond reason to expect that UEFA should ensure that the chosen venue has suitable transport links to and from the ground and that the stadium is fit for purpose.

This is UEFAS competition, as it was when 39 people died at Heysel. Not a single member of UEFA was brought to book over that tragedy. I for one am tired of people like William Gaillard, UEFA’s director of communications and public affairs, taking all the glory when things go well and but none of the shame when it all ends in chaos and even death.

Posted by Paul Saeed | Report as abusive

i think it is the English arrogance that is the real problem here. ther are two english sides in final therefore it has to be closer to home. moscow is a world city i very much doubt that transportation will be an issue. besided manchester is hardly the greatest or the most convinient city for final either

Posted by Mogambo Kush Hoah | Report as abusive

Do not worry, people live in Moscow, some of them speak English. You do not need a visa. Relax and enjoy the game!

Posted by Ollegka | Report as abusive

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I can not agree with you in 100% regarding some thoughts, but you got good point of view…

Posted by Cheap Flights First Class Alien Flight Cheap Air Flights Airport Code | Report as abusive

though it would have been more easier to see the final being payed in England ( more easier for me ) but I think If the fans can go as far as Japan to see the world cup then playing the final in cold moscow will not be a major problem …at least the Russians also like football and their fans should not be denied an opportunity of seeing the final live

Posted by http://soccerfanbase.com | Report as abusive