Now that Real Madrid and Juventus have done the hard part of actually getting to the Champions League final, up to 36,000 of their supporters face an arguably even harder challenge: getting accommodation in - or even near - Cardiff. Hotels in the Welsh host city have been completely sold out for the entire season, with rooms now re-selling for north of £1,000 per night, which is forcing travelling fans to stay in towns almost an hour away like Swansea and Bristol, while there has even been encouragement to travel from London.
Sources within the Uefa hierarchy say the incredibly limited availability has caused “some concern” within the governing body - particularly since part of the bidding process had been assurances that a certain number of hotel rooms would be available for prices of around €150-200 - and that there will be a “review” of the situation once the final has taken place.
While other Uefa figures state that such reviews are par for the course with every Champions League season and they are always looking to improve, it has been noted they have had to work with the Cardiff 2017 Local Organising Committee (LOC) to take a series of extraordinary provisions that ensure this season's final runs smoothly, and it has raised questions over the size of city equipped to host the showpiece fixture.
With a population of just 341,000, the Welsh capital is the second smallest city to stage a final of the modern Champions League, after Gelsenkirchen in 2004. The German city was part of a much bigger conurbation, however, and the event has only multiplied in size in the 13 years since. With so much already booked up, Uefa and the LOC have effectively had to figure out how to seamlessly accommodate and transport 36,000 supporters - with 18,000 tickets allocated for each club - on the night itself.
Among the measures taken are: securing additional train and bus services to take 15,000 fans for the two-hour journey back to London on the night; developing a mobile app that gives supporters real-time hotel availability in areas that will be served by post-match transport services and allows them to book travel; providing capacity for 25,000 supporters to fly in and out of airports like Cardiff, Bristol and Birmingham on charter aircraft.
Given the strong likelihood that the vast majority of the two clubs’ fans will face total travelling time of at least two hours on the day of the fixture and have to stay in different towns, the situation somewhat goes against the recent idea of a city hosting a football “festival” for the two to three days around the final, greatly diffusing the Champions League showpiece experience.
Some sources believe it could mean Uefa in future only hosting it in cities above a certain size, although the issue is that could cut against the governing body’s understandably positive plan of looking to spread the match around Europe, so it is not just about the biggest and wealthiest countries.
The problem is that the Champions League final has effectively become a ‘global mega-event’, and the level of interest - both from fans and media - means it takes a certain size of urban area to accommodate comfortably. As has been said within Uefa circles, the perfect venues are essentially Wembley and the Stade de France. Both obviously fulfil the first criteria of stadiums with a capacity of above 60,000, while London and Paris are huge enough to absorb and accommodate such an influx of people without any disruption to their regular running, but then it would obviously go against Uefa’s fair principles to have it in the same few cities. The governing body also want to understandably avoid the issue of the fixture just rotating between the same eight to 10 venues, but Cardiff may be too far the other side.
In a previous email to The Independent outlining the LOC provisions, Uefa said: “We are confident, that the stadium’s city centre location, coupled with Cardiff’s famous match day sporting atmosphere will deliver a unique and memorable supporter experience for all those planning to attend the UEFA Champions League final 2017.”Reuse content