Chelsea says it won’t support Baku local authorities’ plans to help the club’s fans get to Wednesday’s Europa League final.
Chelsea will play Arsenal in the Azerbaijani capital, and Uefa’s choice of venue has been questioned by English fans for its difficulty to reach.
Baku officials want fans to fly to neighbouring Georgia then travel 580km overland to the game as one solution.
“It is not an option that the club feels it can endorse,” Chelsea said.
The club spoke out after Chelsea Supporters Trust criticised it for a lack of help for fans trying to get to the game.
“We sympathise with the problems our supporters face organising travel to Azerbaijan for the game,” Chelsea said.
The club added it has been working with Arsenal and travel company Thomas Cook Sport to look at ways to help fans travel to Azerbaijan.
“Unfortunately, a number of factors outside the club’s control have made organisation a complicated and challenging process,” it said.
“This includes the location of the final being 2,500 miles from London, a lack of available charter aircraft and transport infrastructure which limited the number of flights able to arrive in Baku around the final.”
Local authorities in Baku have told European football’s governing body Uefa they have organised “an alternative option for supporters of both clubs to reach Baku,” Chelsea explained.
That would mean flying to Tbilisi in neighbouring Georgia then using ground transportation to Baku. That is a distance of some 580km and often made by a 12-hour overnight train service.
“We are grateful to the local organising committee for offering this option,” Chelsea said. “And while we acknowledge it may prove to be cheaper than flying to Baku, it is not a straightforward journey and there will be no stewarding or the regular supporter safety measures on board train travel from Tbilisi to Baku.
“It is not an option that the club feels it can endorse as a satisfactory alternative travel route for supporters still wishing to travel to Baku.”
The club said there were also “uncertainties around the viability” of a proposed extra charter flight that had been suggested.
It added it would “continue to work with all relevant organisations” to help fans with tickets get to the game.
Both Chelsea and Arsenal have been allocated 6,000 tickets.
Arsenal have sold just over half of their 3,000 ticket allocation and it is thought a similar number of Chelsea tickets have been sold.
Chelsea Supporters Trust said it was “disappointed Chelsea have been unable or unwilling to help supporters overcome the travel, expense and logistics.
“This is in spite of the trust’s suggestions as to how the club could offer material help to supporters wishing to go to Baku.”
It was also critical of a lack of subsidy from the club to help fans, despite it “having calculated the negligible financial impact on the club given the revenue earned from the competition this season”.
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