Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol thinks UEFA have to think more about the safety, wellbeing and enjoyment of supporters when it comes to which stadium hosts the Champions League final
Istanbul is a beautiful city. Turkey have incredible stadiums and fan culture. But the Champions League final should not have been held at the Ataturk Stadium. It was not fit for purpose.
Yet again the Champions League final was very disorganised.
The big story was that Manchester City won the treble but something else was going on in the background.
It was a miserable experience for most of the supporters. Of course it was an exciting evening for City fans but they’ll also remember the problems.
I can’t remember the last Champions League final I went to that was was enjoyable and well organised. I’m going as part of my job, not to have fun – and I’m finding it an ordeal. So, I have sympathy for those fans spending thousands of pounds to attend these events and UEFA aren’t thinking about them.
They are seen as part of the show to add atmosphere so it looks good on TV. However, for the fans it is poor value for money. It is an ordeal.
UEFA have to think about the supporters. The supporters’ safety, wellbeing and enjoyment have to be considered.
Why was it such a miserable experience?
Man City fans were told not to use taxis or the metro and use shuttle buses to access the stadium which was 12 miles out of the city centre. The advice was to get there up to nine hours before kick-off. There were waits of up to two hours to get on the buses and you weren’t allowed any water when on the buses. Once on a bus you could’ve been stuck on there for three hours – it was only supposed to be a 20-minute journey but the traffic was so bad.
People were getting out of the buses and walking along the motorway. Some were getting distressed.
Once you got to the stadium, there was supposed to be a fan zone but it was just a couple of concessions and not many toilets. There were queues of up to 90 minutes to get some food or drink – the same to use the toilets.
Fans that left the stadium at 1am were yet again met with massive queues for the buses and huge amounts of traffic.
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People were paying up to £200 for a taxi that usually costs £20. It didn’t matter who you were, even if you were a VIP, you were getting stuck in traffic. Why do UEFA not consider having any provisions around them for food or drink? It’s because it’s all sewn up by their cooperate sponsors – you can only buy their beer or their soft drinks.
There is not enough choice for food or drink and not enough toilets.
UEFA need to learn the lessons. Every year they say they do but it’s got to the stage where I don’t want to go to a Champions League final. And I know lots of City supporters who didn’t go as they’d been told by Liverpool fans about what happened in Paris.
And, the next final is at Wembley. We can’t pat ourselves on the back and say there will be no problems. We all know what happened at the Euro 2020 final.
Serious questions need to be asked and put to UEFA over the organisation of these finals.
Fan complaints to be shared with UEFA
Manchester City have asked fans for their accounts of the Champions League final in Istanbul amid a number of complaints over security and organisation.
The club are understood to be collating supporters’ reports and then intend to share them with UEFA, after claims of fans being in distress as they made their way to and from the Ataturk Stadium.
Criticism centres on the chartered buses organised to take fans from the centre of the city to the ground, the fan parks nearby, and the lack of assistance available from security staff and police.
Supporters say they were made to queue for hours to get on the buses, and then faced trips as long as three hours to the stadium, with water bottles having been confiscated due to security concerns.
Supporters have told Sky Sports News that several people fainted in the bus due to the heat, and some had to force open doors to allow in air while the vehicles were stuck in traffic, while others abandoned the buses to walk amid huge delays.
One fan has recounted how – despite significant security checks at the departure point – a bus stopped to allow two unknown individuals onto their vehicle before taking them to a shop, where fans were encouraged to get off and buy products.
In the fan parks, food and beverage availability is said to have been short, while there was also a lack of toilet facilities that particularly impacted the elderly and disabled.
City were aware of the potential for logistical difficulties in getting to the stadium from the city-centre, and so – along with UEFA – had encouraged fans to make their way to the stadium as long as nine hours in advance.
All fans are understood to have been inside the ground before kick-off, but complaints continued around exiting the stadium after full-time.
There is said to have been a lack of direction from security staff and police, as well as a lack of signage, as fans struggled to find the chartered buses to take them back into the centre of Istanbul.
Fans have also described some bottlenecking points as “dangerous” and some overcrowding in small areas as “extreme”.
The accounts come just months after an independent review found UEFA and the French authorities were to blame for chaos outside last season’s Champions League final in Paris.
Liverpool fans were cleared of any wrongdoing after they were targeted with tear gas and pepper spray by French police amid crushing around security barriers, and ticketless locals gaining access to the stadium.
UEFA has so far declined to comment on the complaints around this year’s final when contacted by Sky Sports News.