Many, though, have had no choice but to admit defeat. Real received only 25,000 applications for tickets from club members — down from more than 40,000 for Cardiff — wanting to go to Kiev, and reports in Spain over the weekend said that some 2,000 who were successful have had no choice but to hand their tickets back: The logistics were just too complicated. Privately, Liverpool fears some of its ticket holders will simply not be able to make it, either.
UEFA, the competition’s organizer, has applied pressure to the authorities in Kiev to try to ameliorate the situation, but remains deeply frustrated.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa last week, UEFA’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, pointed out that it was precisely to avoid situations like the brewing one in Kiev that he made it a priority to change the way the host of the Champions League final, UEFA’s showpiece event, is chosen.
Kiev — like Cardiff last year — did not have to go through a bidding process when it was selected two years ago: until Ceferin’s reforms were instituted in 2017, cities simply lobbied to be awarded a final; often, the winner was chosen for political convenience as much as suitability. Sometimes that was not an issue — Milan in 2016, Berlin in 2015, Lisbon in 2014 and London in 2013 all were well-equipped to host the event — but Cardiff, like Kiev, seemed to struggle with the sheer scale of the final, and the influx of fans into a comparatively small city. Last year, for example, many fans had to stay in Bristol, an hour away in England, or catch special trains from Wales back to London.
Ceferin is eager to make sure that does not happen again. Madrid, which beat out Baku, Azerbaijan, for the 2019 final — had to submit a full dossier, including details of its hotel infrastructure. Lisbon and Istanbul, which are vying to hold the 2020 final, have been required to do the same.
“Before, an executive simply said, ‘I want to give you the game,’” Ceferin said. “Now you present a dossier and the most complete wins. Kiev is beautiful, yet you cannot even get a room under the stairs for hundreds of euros. I will propose in the future that hotel infrastructure is central to the decision, and that places where fans have to sleep in a garage are not chosen.”
That, however, gives UEFA another problem. The organization has been conscious for some time that only a dozen cities in Europe, at most, have both a stadium of the size required and the necessary logistical capacity to host the final smoothly. UEFA does not, however, want to find itself simply cycling between the same places every few years, further reinforcing the impression that the Champions League is a competition available to only a handful of countries.