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Why the Champions League final in Ukraine is proving a “nightmare” for fans

The difficulty and expense of getting to Kiev has put off many Real Madrid supporters from attending the match

Getting to the soccer final in Kiev is proving difficult for fans.
Getting to the soccer final in Kiev is proving difficult for fans. AFP

Spanish soccer team Real Madrid will compete against Liverpool in the Champions League final in Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday, May 26 – but the difficulty of getting to the match may hurt fan numbers in the stadium.

Only 24,268 Real Madrid supporters had confirmed they would attend the game before May 8 – a much lower figure than in previous finals. In 2014, 73,314 fans requested tickets for the finals in Lisbon, in 2016, 56,046 fans traveled to Milan, and in 2017, 44,755 fans wanted to go to the final in Cardiff. Real Madrid says the drop is not just to do with the fact that it is the team’s third consecutive final and fourth in five years but rather because the journey to Kiev is too expensive and complicated.

Something in football is badly broken when the lifeblood of the game can be treated this way

Liverpool FC fan leader Tony Barrett

Liverpool is facing the same problem, with only 25,578 fans planning to make the trip. Tony Barrett, the head of Club and Supporter Liaison at Liverpool FC, apologized to fans for the difficulty.

“To every Liverpool fan who is having a nightmare – and I use the word nightmare deliberately, not loosely – arranging travel to Kiev, I can only apologize. What should be one of the most exciting times of your lives is currently anything but and that, to me, is inexcusable,” he wrote via a message on Twitter.

“The decision to hold the final at a location that is so difficult and so extraordinarily expensive to get to is one that needs explaining by those who made it. In itself, it suggests something in football is badly broken when the lifeblood of the game can be treated this way,” he continued.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) could blame former president Michel Platini for deciding to host the game in Kiev, a city that is poorly connected to both Madrid and Liverpool.

There are only two direct daily flight from Madrid to Kiev and none from Liverpool. Making matters worse, ticket prices from the Spanish capital soared above €600 once it was known that Real Madrid would be playing in the final. The lack of flights, long and costly layovers, and the ban on entering Ukraine in a rental car have made chartered buses the first choice for transportation. But the cost of a bus ticket and entrance to the game will set back fans from both teams at least €1,000 and €1,100. What’s more, the journey there and back is more than 24 hours.

Plane tickets to Kiev have jumped upwards of €600

Finding suitable accommodation is also proving a challenge. Like flights, the cost of a room jumped up astronomically, with central hotels charging as much as €1,000 a night. In some cases, hotels canceled previous reservations, citing water or electricity faults in order to rebook the rooms at higher prices. British brothers Michael and Darren Cain had their reservation cancelled and were instead offered another hotel for €3,400 for two nights. They told the daily Mirror that they planned to sleep in a tent on the street.

But the abusive business practices have spurred the people of Kiev to offer a hand. Residents in the city are now offering free accommodation for Liverpool and Real Madrid fans via a Facebook group called “Kyiv FREE couch for football fans 26/05/18.” The group has nearly 8,000 members and received more than 2,200 posts. It’s the only gesture of solidarity towards the soccer fans who face a long and arduous journey.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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