UEFA president Aleksandr Ceferin has defended the decision to host the Europa League final in Baku, but suggests Champions League finals could be restricted to Europe’s largest stadiums.
UEFA’s decision to host the final in the Azerbaijani capital was met with heavy criticism, with finalists Chelsea and Arsenal both sending back a portion of their ticket allocation due to logistical difficulties.
Ceferin, who was recently re-elected to continue in his role as president, has defended the decision to play the Europa League final in Baku, believing Europe’s showpiece events should be shared across the continent.
“I was supported by 76 per cent of the (European) federations in my first (UEFA) election but not England,” Ceferin said during a talk at Oxford University, as per the Daily Mail. “England supported the other candidate.”
“Whenever we have English clubs, whenever we have complaints, they’re mad! You don’t help yourself in the popularity within European football with that.
“If somebody asks me why we played in Baku, I would say: ‘People live there. Homo sapiens live there.’
“They had to watch the game at 11pm because of the time difference but nobody complained.
“If we have two Azerbaijani teams playing in London nobody would complain. They would come and play without any problems.
“We decided a year and a half ago that we play in Baku, which has a modern stadium of 70,000. I think there is only one stadium in England that is bigger.
“So you should see the happiness, the humbleness of people when they see live the superstars they like.
“We have to develop football everywhere not England, Germany only.”
Despite defending UEFA’s Baku decision, Ceferin did concede that the governing body may choose to play Champions League finals in only the biggest stadiums across Europe.
Liverpool‘s Champions League victory over Tottenham was played at the 67,289-capacity Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, with Ceferin admitting the demand for tickets far outweighs the allocation.
“My thinking now is we should play the finals in bigger stadiums — even if we go to the same four, five places,” Ceferin added
“We had 62,000 tickets in Madrid and 980,000 requests. If we would play for example in Wembley we would have 30,000 more [tickets].
“Probably that as a top, top, top event should be played only at the top venues.
“But Europa League and everything else should be shared with the others who love football.”
Who would feature in your 'Best ever team to never win the Premier League'❓
There was a good pitch for former #LFC ace Steve McManaman on our recent Podcast… 🗣
— Football Faithful (@FootyFaithful_) June 14, 2019