On Wednesday, June 7th, the Fortuna Arena in Eden, Prague, will host probably the second biggest football match in its history. It will be the final of the European Conference League. If the stars align, it will be a duel between West Ham and Fiorentina.
That would mean huge interest from Czech fans. It’s a pretty realistic scenario. West Ham beat AZ Alkmaar 2-1 at home in the first leg. Fiorentina lost the opening game to Basel by the same ratio, but they are the big paper favourites and a turnaround is not impossible.
It is therefore very likely that Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal will take part in the ECL final. Antonín Barák may also join them. Which is a very eye-catching bonus to an already interesting final for the Czech fan.
Not only would there be a Czech footprint, but all three mentioned have worn the jersey of Slavia in the past. They know Eden so well. That’s quite interesting, isn’t it? A return to familiar surroundings and a possible cup win.
West Ham last achieved similar success 43 years ago when they won the FA Cup in 1980. The Violets last lifted the cup in 2001, after dominating the Italian Cup.
So what’s the problem? For this match, the stadium capacity will be 19,370. Five thousand each will be given to the two teams for distribution to their fans. Three thousand tickets will go on sale. UEFA will keep the rest for its partners, sponsors and other needs.
Can you see? If not, here’s one more hint. The 3,000 tickets have been sold by lottery. Yes, there is so much demand for tickets and so few tickets sold that the lottery decided who got the tickets.
And we’re moving on. Over 60,000 fans go to West Ham as a matter of course. It’s the first cup game of a 40-plus-year fast. Already, the club is sounding the alarm that the choice of stadium for the final was completely nonsensical and that demand for tickets far outstrips supply.
It must be remembered that primarily in England, but also in Italy, a stadium with a capacity of 20,000 is considered very, very small indeed. In the Czech Republic, where some league matches are attended by as many as 1100 spectators, this seems like nonsense to us.
But if you’re used to Wembley, Old Trafford or San Siro, putting a European final in a stadium this small probably seems like a ridiculous mistake. Fans have been rioting and raging across clubs and social media.
The reaction was not long in coming. In the future, only a club whose stadium has a capacity of at least 30,000 spectators will be able to compete for the EKL final. At least, this is the position so far of UEFA, which has admitted its mistake for this year’s edition by awarding the final to Fortuna Arena, as claimed by the English media.
The organisers, for their part, are worried about how the streets of Prague and the area around the stadium will look before and during the match. Reportedly, around five thousand fans without tickets are expected to arrive. To try and make it just in case, or at least for any post-match celebrations.
West Ham management plans to build a fanzone in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Stadium in London. It would also involve large screens in the Olympic Park, an area close to the Hammers stand. The club hopes to see less pressure on ticket demand and fewer fans travelling to Prague without tickets.
We’ll see how everything turns out. The composition of the final is still uncertain, while UEFA has reconfirmed that the venue will definitely not change.
Source:: iSport, iDnes
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