Everybody at Chelsea Football Club is looking forward to an intense and passionate match against Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League final in Baku on Wednesday 29 May.
We sympathise with the problems our supporters face organising travel to Azerbaijan for the game, and would like to reassure fans that alongside Arsenal and our travel partners at Thomas Cook Sport, we have looked at various options to help them get to Baku.
Unfortunately, a number of factors outside the club’s control have made organisation a complicated and challenging process. This includes the location of the final being 2,500 miles from London, a lack of available charter aircraft and transport infrastructure which limited the number of flights able to arrive in Baku around the final.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) and local authorities in Baku have informed UEFA they have organised an alternative option for supporters of both clubs to reach Baku, which would mean flying to Tbilisi (in neighbouring Georgia) and then using ground transportation from Tbilisi to Baku. We are grateful to the LOC for offering this option, and while we acknowledge it may prove to be cheaper than flying to Baku, it is not a straightforward journey and there will be no stewarding or the regular supporter safety measures on board train travel from Tbilisi to Baku. It is not an option that the club feels it can endorse as a satisfactory alternative travel route for supporters still wishing to travel to Baku.
There is also information in circulation regarding a new charter flight offer from the LOC. We wish to make clear that there are many uncertainties around the viability of this suggested flight, which include no guarantee that a minimum number would have to be met in order for the flight to operate, supporters of the two clubs will not be separated and the offer currently appears only slightly cheaper than the existing supporter charter flights with Thomas Cook Sport, so does not represent a great saving.
Supporters may be aware of reports of financial difficulties affecting Thomas Cook. We have been assured that Thomas Cook is operating business as usual and we see no threat to our supporters’ flights to and from Azerbaijan next week, which are ATOL protected regardless.
We will continue to work with all relevant organisations to try to ensure satisfactory travel arrangements for those Chelsea supporters able to attend. Please do not travel if you have not purchased a ticket.
The latest Foreign Office travel advice for the region includes important information to help supporters have a safe and enjoyable visit to Baku.
Chelsea supporters who have bought tickets for the final through the club and have submitted a travel declaration form will, as is standard for our European away games, be sent further advice and information.
For those not travelling, please be aware that Stamford Bridge will not be hosting a beamback screening of the match. We are unable to do so due to a large event taking place at the stadium that has been in the diary for some time.