Arsenal and Chelsea have returned over half of their combined allocation of 12,000 tickets for next week's Europa League final due to the difficulty and great expense for fans travelling to Azerbaijan.

A lack of direct flights between London and Baku means supporters face costs of over £1,000 ($1,300) just to make the 5,000-mile round trip before tickets and accommodation are taken into account.

Arsenal had initially complained over their small allocation, but confirmed to AFP that they have returned 2,200 tickets for the Gunners' first European final in 13 years.

AFP understands that Chelsea have sold just 2,000 of their 6,000 allocation.

UEFA denied reports that sponsors had also returned tickets and said they were confident that local fans will snap up the spare tickets to ensure there is a capacity crowd at the 68,000 Olympic Stadium.

"The majority of these tickets have already been sold to local fans in Azerbaijan and we are confident that the remaining ones will also be sold as demand is very high," UEFA said in a statement to AFP.

The Chelsea Supporters' Trust (CST) joined other supporters' groups in criticising UEFA for the location of the final, but also turned on their own club's handling of the affair.

"Baku is a totally unsuitable location for a major European final. The combination of cost, complexity in regard to travel arrangements and time off work has massively reduced the travelling support, including those who loyally and ordinarily go to all home, away and European matches," said the CST in a statement.

The CST also complained about the cost of charter flights put on by Chelsea and that the club has not extended the time for season ticket renewals in order to help fans' cash flow.

Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will also not travel to the final due to safety fears.

Mkhitaryan's native Armenia and Azerbaijan have feuded over Nagorny Karabakh since Armenian separatists seized the territory in a war that claimed about 30,000 lives in the early 1990s.


UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has defended the decision to host the Europa League final in Baku in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel to be published on Saturday.

Chelsea and Arsenal are set to play in Baku on May 29, and UEFA has faced heavy criticism, both for the distance of the venue from London and over Azerbaijan's record on human rights.

Ceferin, 51, told Der Spiegel that the human rights situation in Azerbaijan was a "problem", but that this was true of other European nations as well.

The controversy over Baku increased this week, when Arsenal's Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan decided not travel to the final amid concerns for his safety.

The UEFA president said that the decision was Mkhitaryan's to make, and drew a parallel with the decision to host Euro 2016 in France.

"If football allows itself to be stopped by such tensions, then we will not be able to organise anything in future," said Ceferin.

"We managed to organise a safe European Championships in France when the country was a target of terrorist attacks."

Ceferin also said that he was in no rush to reform the UEFA Champions League.

"If you ask me, there is no need to change anything," he said.

The 51-year-old said that UEFA were in discussions over reforms proposed earlier this year by the European Club Association.

The proposals envisaged a restructuring of all European club competitions into a three-tiered system with internal relegation and promotion from 2024.

Ceferin said that UEFA had already vetoed a suggestion to hold Champions League games at the weekend, saying that "this will not happen".

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