Chelsea fans slam club over UEL final fiasco
The Chelsea Supporters' Trust (CST) have criticised the club for failing to help or show solidarity with their supporters ahead of the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku on Wednesday, and accused official travel partner Thomas Cook of charging an "extortionate" price for flight packages to Azerbaijan.
Only around 1,500 of the original 6,000 tickets allocated to Chelsea for the final have been sold to season-ticket holders or members, with another 500 or so purchased by local supporters' clubs and the rest returned to UEFA. Arsenal have only sold around 4,000 tickets to their fans.
In a statement released on Friday, CST cited "unprecedented challenges" facing fans hoping to attend the game including the cost and complexity of travel arrangements, criticising UEFA for choosing a "totally unsuitable location" in Baku and adding that Chelsea have said and done nothing to assist their supporters.
"We are extremely disappointed that Chelsea FC have been unable or unwilling to help Chelsea supporters overcome the travel, expense and logistics in order for them to support the team in a European final," the statement read. "The lack of a statement from Chelsea FC is also disappointing.
"Arsenal FC issued a statement expressing frustration and disappointment on behalf of their supporters; acknowledging the unsuitability of the venue, the challenges faced by supporters travelling to Baku and the need to ensure more care by UEFA in future venue selection.
"While this may not make any difference to UEFA's immediate decision-making, at the very least it sent out a message to their supporters that they were concerned about the difficulties they face and were on their side.
"A similar statement from Chelsea would have engendered some much-needed goodwill from the supporters."
Thomas Cook's travel packages for the game are priced at £979 and consist of flights to and from Baku as well as bus transport to and from the stadium. The cost of a match ticket is not included and the return flight departs shortly after the match, meaning no opportunity for overnight hotel stay.
"They're obscenely priced," CST chair David Chidgey told ESPN FC of Thomas Cook's packages. "I would go as far as to say they're exploitative.
"They pay Chelsea a lot of money so they can fleece the fans, and that's exactly what they're doing. It just shows that we're cannon fodder to be exploited and the club are complicit in that."
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook told ESPN FC: "Prices are based on a number of factors. For most airlines and travel companies, the summer season starts in May, which means there are a lot more planes in use across European and fewer aircraft available to charter than in the winter.
"This has been exacerbated by the grounding of Boeing 737 Max aircraft meaning there are less reserve aircraft available to charter. Baku is also located over 4000km from London and takes almost six hours to fly there."