Roger Alton

Is Uefa just useless – or is it worse than that?

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It’s not clear how many readers of this journal will be affected, but anyone planning a stag weekend in Prague ought to steer clear of the first week of June. That’s when the city hosts the Uefa Conference League final at the 20,000-capacity Eden Arena, home to Slavia Prague. The finalists are West Ham – average home gate a 60,000 sellout – and Fiorentina, average gate 25-30,000. Which raises the question: is Uefa just utterly useless or is it worse than that?

This game could have filled Wembley twice over; now it’s like holding the coronation in a parish church

Both finalists have been allocated 5,000-odd tickets, with the remainder going to assorted sponsors and what is laughably known as the ‘Uefa family’. This is insane. It’s completely understandable that Uefa wants to play big games in unlikely venues to spread the word about football – last year’s final was in Albania, for example. But it means that hardly any self-respecting fan will be able to get a ticket. This game could have filled Wembley twice over; now it’s like holding the coronation in a parish church.

Uefa has got form here. Last year’s chaotic Champions League final was in Paris and scarred by police violence when Liverpool fans were tear-gassed. Both Uefa and the French government tried to accuse Liverpool fans of using ‘fake tickets’. That was total nonsense, though it took months before Uefa apologised to the club for attempting to pin the blame for the shambles on its supporters. Sixty-eight people were arrested and 174 injured. And that was in Paris at the Stade de France.

Now buckle up for Prague on 7 June. The pent-up appetite for this match is huge: West Ham haven’t played in a European final since losing to Anderlecht in 1976, though they did win the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 at Wembley in front of 98,000.

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