Outdoor World

Can fans afford the Champions League final?

Brian Palacio Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Madrid’s Estadio Metropolitano stadium is where Tottenham and Liverpool fans hope to be

After Liverpool and Tottenham achieved unlikely comebacks to reach the Champions League final in Madrid, supporters of both teams now face a similar uphill challenge in trying to get to the Spanish capital.

Direct flights from the UK to Madrid for dates around the final on 1 June have reached more than £1,300 return, with some airlines being accused of “profiteering”.

But that won’t stop over 30,000 fans with tickets – and many without – trying to get there. The question is, how?

What’s the flight situation?

If you don’t have your seat already, then the options for direct flights are scarce – and expensive.

The search has left many fans despairing over the logistics.

Most seats on flights from north-west England to Madrid are sold out, although Easyjet was offering an outbound flight on the day before the final for £750 one way – its maximum price for that route.

Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram tweeted Easyjet, calling the situation “entirely shameful”.

He said: “Hiking up prices by 683% for return flights to Madrid is quite simply profiteering from the passion of football fans.”

Easyjet said in a statement: “We do not artificially increase ticket prices around sporting events, prices are led by a strong demand for some flights due to convenient scheduled flight times.”

Easyjet has put on extra flights or bigger aircraft to meet demand for previous big sporting events – and the company says it is looking at what is possible this time around.

Skyscanner, the travel search engine, says it saw a 3015% surge in flights from the UK to Madrid following Liverpool’s third goal on Tuesday.

Are there special flights for fans?

There are chartered flights but these aren’t cheap either.

Thomas Cook Sport is organising flights for Liverpool fans who have match tickets to the game.

The cost is £559 per person, and they are only available for Liverpool supporters who have purchased an official match ticket from the club.

Other firms are offering direct flights for around £650 per person, from Liverpool, Manchester and London Stansted – some set off on the morning of the game and return in the early hours of the following day.

Although this isn’t the most relaxing option, it does avoid the need to book accommodation (more on that difficulty later).

What about an indirect route?

This can be a far more affordable option for many fans but requires a little ingenuity – and quick thinking.

Tottenham fan Brian Palacio, 67, from East Sussex, booked his flights while still in the stands of Ajax’s Johan Cruyff Stadium in Amsterdam having just seen his side earn their place in the final.

Madrid Image copyright Brian Palacio
Image caption Brian didn’t wait long to book his flights after watching his side secure their place in the final

A seasoned follower of Spurs around Europe, Brian says trying to find a way to get to Madrid was a real challenge – particularly as Liverpool fans had a 24-hour head start.

He says: “With Liverpool qualifying the evening before, the fares not only jumped in price, but the cheaper flights gave little, or no time to travel from airport to stadium.

“My strategy on this occasion was to search on the website of Madrid airport, and find non-English airports whose flights arrived in Madrid in the early afternoon of the game.”

He found a flight from Cagliari to Madrid, arriving in the afternoon in time for the evening kick-off.

Working backwards, he then secured an early flight from Stansted to Cagliari. And the cost of his outbound flights? A relative bargain at £100.

There’s just one problem – he hasn’t yet solved the conundrum of how he gets back.

But flying isn’t the only option, right?

Social media Image copyright James Ward
Image caption James Ward (left), pictured at the Liverpool-Barcelona match, spent a day sorting his travel plans

Of course not. Many fans are looking into flying somewhere other than Madrid, and then getting the train to the Spanish capital.

London-based Liverpool fan James Ward, 39, managed to get hold of a flight from Gatwick to Alicante on the day before the match for £110.

From there he can get to Madrid in three hours on the train. Coming back, he’ll go via Valencia on British Airways, using some carefully accrued air miles.

He says: “It took a good eight hours to get all that planned and booked [on Wednesday] – Spurs fans will be screwed by comparison.”

Getting the train all the way there is also possible with a one-way journey on 31 May from London to Lyon and onto Barcelona then Madrid taking around 15 hours and costing from £259.

And as many fans have suggested on social media, there is always the option to drive.

Once fans have got their cars across the Channel, the drive from Calais in northern France to Madrid takes an estimated 15 hours to cover nearly 1,000 miles.

Travel sorted? That’s just the start…

Football Image copyright NurPhoto
Image caption Hotel prices in Madrid have soared for the weekend of the Champions League final

There are barely any Madrid hotel rooms available for less than £1,000 on 1 June.

Liverpool fan Michael Edwards, from Yorkshire, sorted his flights “fairly simply” by using a tour operator, but finding affordable accommodation for his two-night stay in Madrid has proved impossible.

He says: “We looked straight after the game and there wasn’t a problem finding a hotel but a reasonable hotel (3* and above) started at £1,300 for two nights.

“Although you expect the prices to be increased, £1,300 for a hotel that normally charges about £150 a night seems over the top.

“It will be my third Champions League final so it’s not exactly a surprise!”

He has ended up booking one for around £1,400 – and when he looked at the same hotel on Thursday morning, the day after Spurs beat Ajax, it had gone up to £3,900.

And then there’s the price of match tickets.

A Football Supporters Federation spokesman said: “Four in every five tickets made available to Liverpool and Tottenham cost more than £150 with the most expensive an eye-watering £513 – there is simply no excuse for these costs.”

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48214483

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