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- The Europa League final was a poorly attended affair, with thousands of empty seats at Baku Olympic Stadium.
- The final was held in Baku, Azerbaijan, leaving a 3,000-mile trek for fans from London who wished to support their favorite teams in person.
- Ultimately, many fans elected to stay home, leaving a depressing scene at the final.
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The Europa League final went on with a whimper, not a bang on Wednesday night, with Chelsea handily defeating Arsenal, 4-1.
The scene should have been an electric one, with two cross-town rivals from London facing off for the opportunity to lift a trophy and in Arsenal’s case, earn a coveted spot in next year’s Champions League.
But despite the stakes and the history between two of London’s perennial contenders, the match was something of a snoozefest, with a lack of energy in the stands that translated its way onto the pitch and then through the broadcast to all of those watching at home.
Normally, such a game would be played in front of a packed crowd, but the final was played in Azerbaijan — nearly 3,000 miles from London — the stands were instead largely empty, especially when you consider that there was a trophy on the line.
On Twitter, people voiced their displeasure with UEFA’s decision to give Azerbaijan hosting duties.
Making matters worse was the fact that the host stadium, Baku Olympic Stadium, is built to house more than just soccer, leaving an absurd amount of space between the fans and the action on the field.
With the goal of expanding the game, it’s understandable that UEFA might want to spread the biggest matches the sport has to offer. Further, UEFA got about as unlucky as possible with two London teams reaching the final, as the United Kingdom is about as far away from Azerbaijan as possible while remaining in Europe.
That said, there’s also plenty of reason to blame UEFA for selecting a host country that made these problems foreseeable, and inevitable.
While London left fans with an especially difficult trek to Azerbaijan, none of the final eight teams competing for the Europa League trophy were within 2,000 miles of the final.
As much as UEFA might want to expand the sport, don’t be surprised if they decide to select a host city that’s a bit easier to get to for next year’s final.
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