It’s not quite Baku, but getting to Madrid this weekend is no mean feat. Whisper it quietly lest UEFA or EasyJet hear, but there’s a Champions League final on.
The joy of a first all-English showpiece since 2008 shouldn’t be tainted by extortionate air fares, hotels, and ticket prices.
Within hours of Liverpool and Tottenham’s respective semi-finals, direct flights from the UK had rocketed to almost £1000 each way.
For many, that has meant finding inventive ways of arriving in the Spanish capital.
The things we do for football, eh?
Nick Reilly – “Where to start! Ferry to Calais, 14-hour journey to Madrid. Stopping off at a hotel in Bordeaux and then camping in Madrid for two nights.” The group have got two tickets between four people – may the best man win.
Tom Leatherbarrow – “The moment Liverpool qualified we started looking into ways to get ourselves to Madrid. We didn’t know if we’d get tickets via the Liverpool FC ballot but either way, we thought it would be worth the journey for the atmosphere anyway. Flight prices were ridiculous so we got a group together and hired a campervan so we can drive down to Madrid from London! Let’s hope the boys can bring it home.”
Lesa McAnulty – “Flights for 3 of us out of Luton back to Gatwick and a Madrid airport hotel for 2 nights. Spent up to £6k so far. What price can you put on memories?”
Richard Cracknell – “Getting a 7am Eurostar from London to Paris, and a flight from Paris to Madrid landing at 5pm. Leaving Sunday night on a Madrid to Paris flight, getting an overnight AirBnB in Paris, then the Eurostar from Paris to London at 9am.”
Donna and Darren Skelly – “Flying from Heathrow to Frankfurt, on to Bilbao then a bus to Madrid. Nowhere to sleep on Saturday, so partying until 8am Sunday no matter what happens. Then a bus back to Bilbao, a hotel booked there, then a day in Bilbao, before flying home Monday on a day-night flight via Munich.”
Paul Hugill – “Driving from Cornwall to Bristol for a flight to Amsterdam. A five-hour wait then on to Seville, overnight there and then a train to Madrid. Same on the way back.”
Just 16,613 fans of each club have got tickets, but tens of thousands more are expected to make their way to Madrid regardless.
There are already concerns about what will happen to those without tickets during the game itself. FanZones – which can hold 17,000 but not necessarily many more than that – are closing at 6pm and there will be no giant screens showing the action.
That means fans will face a rush to find local bars, some establishments seizing the opportunity to charge up to €70 for entry. Others are warning they could close altogether to avoid trouble.
Arsenal and Chelsea found it nigh-on impossible to escape UEFA’s ineptitude on Wednesday night.
With a bit of good fortune, the occasion will be memorable for the right reasons in the Spanish capital.