Kiev: Liverpool have complained to the “highest levels” of European football governing body Uefa as spiralling accommodation and travel costs threaten to turn the Champions League final against Real Madrid into a nightmare for fans.
Thousands of supporters from England and Spain will converge on Kiev for Saturday’s showpiece between two of the giants of European football.
But while excitement levels are mounting, fans are being forced to pay extortionate prices after hotels in the Ukrainian capital began charging up to 100 times their standard rates and some supporters found their early reservations had been cancelled.
Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore said the Ukrainian capital, which hosted the Euro 2012 final, was not fit for purpose, highlighting difficulties with flights and accommodation.
“They just don’t have the airport infrastructure and the hotel capacity to cope with an event of this size and there isn’t another major city within real hitting distance of it,” he told the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
“It’s not only affected Liverpool fans but Real Madrid fans too. There will be lessons learnt from this. Rest assured, I’ve raised this at the highest levels of Uefa.”
Liverpool head of club and supporter liaison Tony Barrett said he sympathised with fans over their plight.
“For those of you who get to Kiev, I hope it’s worth every penny and every ounce of effort that you have put in,” he tweeted.
“For those who don’t — and there are already far too many in this position — I apologise for not being able to help you. Football without fans is nothing.”
Real Madrid fans are faced with similar problems. More than 2,000 have reportedly returned their tickets due to the logistical difficulties and spiralling costs, although the club have not confirmed the report.
Real Madrid fan Marcos Sanchez secured accommodation well in advance but his bookings were cancelled and prices skyrocketed.
“Everything has been a nightmare,” he said. “I have reported it on social networks and Ukrainian journalists have even called me because it gives a bad image for the city and the country.
“People have created a Facebook group offering their houses in Kiev for free and it works brilliantly, its genuine.”
Spanish fan groups have organised accommodation outside Ukraine as well as in Kiev and many fans are flying straight in and out.
Nabil Alturek, president of fan group Pena Capote Y Montera, said two groups were travelling. One will sleep in Warsaw one night and Kiev the next before returning to Warsaw and the other will spend the night at the airport in the Ukraine capital.
“It was cheap because we booked a long time ago,” he said. “We were shocked by the cancellations, but we were lucky, we paid 40 or 50 euros per person” at the hotel in Kiev”.
But Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, gave a robust response about situation in the city, saying reports of tickets being returned was “fake news”.
“There are no hotel rooms left for the Champions League,” he said.
“The fact that prices are going up before a major event, this happens in other places besides Kiev,” he added. “This is world practice. The city cannot regulate business — these are the laws of the market.”
Liverpool’s Moore has hailed the collective efforts of Liverpool supporters and staff and said club officials were working hard to stamp down on tickets being sold by touts.
“We are acutely aware of the issues that our supporters have faced in terms of obtaining tickets, arranging travel, and organising accommodation for the final,” he wrote on Liverpool’s website.
“The entire 16,626 allocation that Liverpool received from Uefa for the final has now been sold and the club is aware of instances of tickets being sold at extortionate prices, with a number of cases currently being investigated,” he said.
British police have warned fans without tickets not to travel to Ukraine and have advised against buying tickets from touts.