The media have run with various stories concerning Arsenal and Chelsea returning unsold tickets to the Europa League final this evening in Baku. Estimates suggest it could be up to 6,000 tickets. The final has been plagued by logistical issues relating to flights and visas, in addition to safety concerns.
Since 2000-01, the average distance travelled by both finalists to the host destination is circa 4000km (one way). Arsenal and Chelsea will travel over 9000km to reach Baku. Keep in mind these finalists are 14km apart.
While this is the tenth UEFA Cup/Europa League final to feature two teams from the same country, the distance the London teams and fans are travelling is by far the greatest in recent times. Similar but less intensive travelling happened in the recent past. In 2006-2007 Sevilla and Espanyol met in Glasgow, with fans travelling nearly 5000km. Porto met Braga in Dublin for 2010-11 final, travelling over 5000km. A year later Atlético Madrid met Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest – this involved travel of over 6000km. These three finals attracted close to a full house.
Applying a 10% capacity constraint on the venues since 2001 (as UEFA often require lower capacities) shows that only 4 out of 18 finals had an attendance of less than 95% of capacity. These slightly lower attendances may even be explained by bigger stadium capacity rather than fan preferences (i.e. Westfalenstadion, Dortmund).
The Baku Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan holds 69,870 and a UEFA limit will set tonight’s capacity at 64,000. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the attendance figure. Even if it is high, tonight's match may be more for the locals than the core supporters of the two finalists.