UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin hits out at Arsenal and Chelsea Europa League final backlash

"Whenever we have English clubs, whenever we have complaints, you don't help yourself in the popularity within European football with that."

Aleksander Ceferin
Image: Aleksander Ceferin: "If we have two Azerbaijani teams playing in London nobody would complain"

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says English clubs don't help themselves "in the popularity within European football" after the backlash from Arsenal and Chelsea surrounding the venue and location choice of this year's Europa League final in Baku.

Ticketing and travel issues featured prominently in the build-up to the final on May 29; it was a 5,500-mile round trip to Azerbaijan from London for U.K-based Chelsea and Arsenal fans, both clubs also returned over half of their 12,000 overall ticket allocation for the game.

Gunners midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan opted not to play in their 4-1 defeat following concerns about the Armenian national's status in the Caucasus state because of diplomatic friction between the two nations.

In a talk at Oxford University on Friday, the UEFA president hit out at English clubs for their conduct and approach towards the final venue choice.

Ceferin: "I am ashamed that in 2019 we have to hold a conference to promote diversity"
Image: Ceferin has defended UEFA's ethos of spreading the venues and host cities for European club competitions across the continent

Ceferin said: "Whenever we have English clubs, whenever we have complaints. 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.

Image: The Olympic Stadium in Baku has a 68,700 capacity, the attendance at the Europa League final was 51,370.

"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.

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"They had to watch the game at 11pm because of the time difference but nobody complained.

Ceferin, who was re-elected unopposed in January to begin a for a new four-year presidency, has insisted that UEFA will keep Baku as a host city for Euro 2020, despite the problems surrounding this year's Europa League final.

"We have to develop football everywhere not England, Germany only," he added.

'We had 62,000 tickets in Madrid [for the Champions League final] 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."

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