UEFA makes a big deal of football being ‘for the fans’.
So you would think that they’d let the supporters of their flagship club competition, the Champions League, get a fair crack at securing a ticket for its final.
But once again, the governing body is holding back a huge number of tickets – some 35% all told – from fans to divvy out to various corporate interests.
It means that the 2023 Champions League final, which will be held at the 72,000 capacity Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, will see the two clubs involved getting just 20,000 tickets each, while another 7,200 will be given to ‘football fans’ from around the globe in a ballot system.
And the other 24,800? Let’s just say those that those who have given to UEFA in the past will receive in kind come June 10.
Champions League final tickets: 47,200 tickets out of 72,000 going to fans. The two Istanbul finalists receive 20,000 each. Remaining tickets offered to fans worldwide via @UEFAcom. Ticket prices: Category 4: €70; Category 3: €180; Category 2: €490; Category 1: €690.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) April 21, 2023
It means that thousands of Manchester City season ticket holders would be forced to miss the final if they got there – the club has 36,000 full members, and even some of those that are lucky enough to get a ticket will have to pay a cool £610 for the privilege….that’s before flights, accommodation and hospitality.
For the fans? UEFA is pulling a fast one once again….
Even though the numbers in 2023 stack up miserably and reflect unfavourably on UEFA, they’re by no means anomalous to what’s gone before.
In 2019, Liverpool and Tottenham reached the final of the Champions League, which was to be played at the 63,500 capacity Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. The reward for their fans? Barely 17,000 tickets each.
Another 4,000 were held over for neutral supporters, which meant that the remaining 25,500 were handed out to friends of UEFA – some 40% of the entire allocation.
There was a similarly horrific story for the Europa League final, which was contested by Arsenal and Chelsea, where just 12,000 tickets were sold to fans of both teams – more than 50,000 went to….well, whoever UEFA chooses.
The worldwide health crisis affected ticketing for the next two editions of the Champions League, but for the 2022 final UEFA were up to their old tricks again – handing Liverpool and Real Madrid just 20,000 tickets each for a Stade Denis venue that holds 75,000. Another 12,000 were available in a general sale, meaning that 23,000 were dished out to corporate sponsors and hangers-on.
Incidentally, Liverpool got a larger allocation for the League Cup final – 33,000 – just weeks before.
Friends in High Places
Unsurprisingly, UEFA have come in for criticism for giving so many tickets to corporate jollies and vested interests.
Even Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool boss who you might expect to toe the party line, questioned the motives of football’s governors ahead of the 2022 final.
“Is it right that we only get 20,000, they get 20,000 and there’s 75,000 in? That makes 35,000 left over. Where are these tickets?”
He even, perhaps somewhat irresponsibly, suggested that Reds fans should travel to Paris without a ticket, and while he had good intent behind such a statement, it’s obvious the dangers that brings with it.
So what’s UEFA’s solution? They have increased the percentages of tickets to be allocated to club supporters in 2023, but is 65% a large enough amount for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for fans that travel to watch their team home and away?
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin finally lifted the veil at a congress meeting in Vienna in 2022. He admitted that sponsors paying ‘€100 million or more’ to UEFA were handed golden tickets to the final, describing it as ‘part of a contractual obligation’.
But he hit back at allegations that he might be handing out favours to his nearest and dearest.
“UEFA doesn’t get more tickets than the others. Some tickets go to the market, some tickets go to the fans and some go to the partners. It’s not UEFA. I’m not giving tickets for free to my friends or selling to my friends.”
So there you have it. You don’t need to be a friend of UEFA’s to get a ticket to the Champions League final, but you’ve got more of a chance of getting one if you donate €100 million to them than you have as an ardent supporter of one of the finalists.