Now is an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan. At the time of writing, we are planning routes to Kiev and scrambling for tickets. It is unlikely that many other teams feel sorry for us, the Champions League Final is what dreams are made of and most teams would give anything to be there. What should be a period of joy and excitement is beginning to turn into upset and stress. Ticket prices, allocation and scarcity are forcing die hard Liverpool fans serious issues and that is before mentioning the near 3,000-mile round trip. There are so many issues that surround the build up to this final.
Firstly, the ticket prices. There were four categories for supporters who were fortunate enough to be able to buy a ticket in the Liverpool end:
Category 4 - £61 (£48 restricted view),
Category 3 - £140 (£109 restricted view),
Category 2 - £280 (£223 restricted view),
Category 1 - £394 (£315 restricted view),
The nerve of UEFA to be able to charge £315 for a seat with a restricted view is chilling. Their argument is, of course, that this is the biggest game in the club calendar and they should be able to charge these prices. But what about the normal fan? Take aside any further costs, if you were presented with the opportunity to watch your team in a Champions League Final but the only seat left was £315 with a restricted view, would you pay it? The sad answer is, most would say yes. Perhaps if fans took a stand, much like Liverpool’s successful walk-out on the 77th minute to protest rising ticket prices, then these prices would lower. However, when you are in a position knowing that if you don’t take that ticket there are thousands waiting to do so, you have little choice. The blame here cannot be placed with the supporters, it is sheer greed from the competition organisers to even contemplate charging so much for a ticket to watch a game of football. With each year of these astronomical prices we only move closer to the next price hike, evident from the rise from last year’s final. Although very small, prices have gone up in all four categories in comparison to last season. Compared to the last time Liverpool won the competition, the prices were £78, £71 and £64, this huge increase in 13 years illustrates how UEFA will not stop increasing prices for their marquee game. A lot of focus has been placed on the top category tickets, many fans would have purchased cheaper tickets and felt relieved to have avoided the more expensive ones. This does not matter, as soon as UEFA sell even one ticket for that amount of money they have now set a new benchmark to beat next season. This spiral of greed looks set to never end and it feels as though this competition has become a way to make a lot of money for those who do not need any more.
Next, we have the allocation. UEFA did not seem to make much attempt to endear themselves to any football fans. The NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev has an official capacity of 70,050, however Liverpool and Real Madrid fans have only been awarded 16,626 seats each. The capacity has been reduced to 63,000 for the match and 63% of that will be Liverpool, Real Madrid and neutral (6,700 tickets) supporters. This of course means that the other 37% will fall into the hands of hospitality members, rights holders, commercial partners, officials, players and media. This again feels so very wrong. Liverpool fans have won admirers from around the world with their passionate displays of support on famous Anfield nights and across Europe, yet only 16,000 will be able to purchase a ticket through Liverpool FC for the game. Liverpool fans seem to be highly skilled at finding tickets, evident in Istanbul and Basel when the Liverpool fans made up most of the supporters within the ground. However, these fans should not have to be put in a position to dip their hands into the black market and face the high chance of being scammed. If the allocation was 80,000 Liverpool would sell out, so why have UEFA chose a stadium where they can only afford to give out 16,000 tickets to each team? Perhaps it is time that, somewhere near their headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland UEFA thought about building a purpose-built Champions League Final stadium. If it is so important to them to adhere to their corporate peers, then why not allow the supporters the same amount of respect. With all the £394 tickets they are selling each year, they could soon afford a stadium big enough to fit two European giants within and all the hospitality suites they desired. This idea could work and provide fans a regular final location that would be easier to plan toward. There should never be a ticket allocation issue, UEFA choose the stadium that hosts the final. For all that their greed has been highlighted, they could select a much bigger stadium and keep the prices the same which would only provide them more money. It seems strange that UEFA seem more interested in getting enough seats for their corporate partners than the fans who would pay anything to watch their team. If the selection of the stadium was better, then there would be no need for so many supporters to be in a desperate search for tickets.
Any desperate Liverpool fan would no doubt have typed into Google – ‘Champions League Final Tickets’, within seconds you can find yourself on a host of websites selling for obscene prices. Just some brief examples: StubHub with tickets from £467 to £26,208 (not a joke), Ticket Gum offering theirs from €970 to €1,890 and Ticket Bis selling from £437 to £24,491. Suddenly UEFA’s £400 tickets seem very reasonable. Quite how any can justify paying over £20,000 is beyond comprehension but the sickeningly unaffordable prices of these websites are not what alarms me the most. It is the sheer amount of tickets available to purchase that seems so wrong. These corporate and hospitality partners that UEFA are so keen to get into the ground, must be the ones selling their tickets. Most of the available seats are VIP and this illustrates who these websites are getting their tickets from. I don’t claim to be Sherlock Holmes, there must be someone within UEFA who can see which people are selling their tickets. If I can discover this then so can they. If these VIP’s are selling their tickets, then they must be important enough for UEFA to notice they were missing. These tickets should never find their way into the hands of anyone else. It is impossible to ensure every single person turns up, however the volume of tickets available online shows that they are being given to the wrong people.
Now imagine you’re in this position, you are a Liverpool fan who has been to every home game this season and for the last 30 years. You were unsuccessful in being able to purchase a ticket through the club and instead forked out hundreds, maybe thousands on a ticketing website to get a ticket to the game. Now you must find a way to the final, in a city which is not in the EU. Real Madrid fans have been stung by this poorly selected venue too, with 2,000 tickets having to be handed back by the club. For their supporters, this is their third final in as many years, they cannot afford these trips around Europe and UEFA is in danger of pushing away the fan base of their most successful team. Liverpool fans are not in as fortunate of a position and they are all plotting routes across Europe to find themselves in Kiev. Personally, a flight from Liverpool to Krakow, Krakow to Kiev, then returning with a flight from Kiev to London and driving home. There are countless stories, many on a coach from a pub in Anfield all the way to Kiev with a stop in Poland for a shower and some food but not time to sleep! You could place your finger on the globe and it seems some Liverpool fans will be transferring there on their way to the final. All to save money, with direct flights costing up to £1,000.
Now as a fan you have your ticket and flight sorted, but your accommodation in Kiev cancels on you with no reasoning. Many supporters who chanced their luck and booked a hotel or an Airbnb before Liverpool qualified for the final, were met with messages from their hosts explaining a water leak or refurbishments during their stay. The bookings were cancelled, yet when they search again their old home is there to book but for ten times the price. Feeding off UEFA’s greed, some (not all) have decided to ditch their previous customers in search for those with deeper pockets. It is not unusual for prices to go up at the time of a sporting event, but for so many to believe it to be acceptable to leave customers bedless with little notice is disgusting. After the stress of organising transport and securing, or just attempting to, a ticket you would hope there would be one reliable part of the trip. Instead, fans are still being met with cancelation messages days before the final.
Perhaps this whole debacle is best described by Tony Barret, head of club and supporter liaison at Liverpool:
'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 apologise. What should be one of the most exciting times of your lives is currently anything but and that, to me, is inexcusable.
The decision to hold the final at a location which 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.
For those of you who get to Kiev, I hope it’s worth every penny and every ounce of effort that you have put in. For those who don’t - and there are already far too many in this position - I apologise for not being able to help you. Football without fans is nothing.'
For someone within the club to speak so strongly, it illustrates the shambles this has been. UEFA have a lot to answer for, yet they will remain silent. Liverpool fans are in for a trip of a lifetime which they may be paying back for just as long. If it wasn’t such a joyous and magical occasion, then they could be forgiven for feeling pessimistic for the game. Instead the calling of 90p pints and the image of Jordan Henderson lifting the trophy is managing to mask the unholy mess that UEFA have left them in.