The Azerbaijan FA have blamed Eintracht Frankfurt fans for the number of unsold seats at the Europa League final in Baku’s Olympic Stadium.
Pundits including Cesc Fabregas and Eidur Gudjohnsen criticised the lack of atmosphere inside the arena, but Azerbaijan FA general secretary Elkhan Mammadov insisted he was pleased with the turnout.
The Azerbaijan FA have blamed Frankfurt fans for the empty seats at the Europa League final
It is believed Frankfurt supporters bought tickets in March before their exit at the semi-finals
He told Sportsmail: ‘We are very positive about the number of foreign tourists not only from London but international supporters of Arsenal and Chelsea travelling to Baku.
‘The majority of empty seats were Frankfurt fans who purchased the tickets earlier but did not make the final.
‘We are not at all disappointed that it wasn’t sold out.’
The first round of tickets for the final went on sale during March, while the tournament was still in the quarter-final stage, and Mammadov believes Frankfurt supporters – who saw their team eliminated by Chelsea in the semi-final – bought tickets at this stage and did not sell them on.
He added: ‘I think they just decided to keep the ticket. Maybe they just decided not to return them to UEFA.’
Mammadov estimated a split of 30,000 foreign fans and 22,000 locals inside the ground, and also pointed to the atmosphere in the build-up.
He said: ‘In the city it was a real celebration, it was like the London streets before the kick off. It was a good crowd by Arsenal fans and Chelsea fans.’
There were huge blocks of empty seats during the all-English affair in Azerbaijan’s capital
The FA chief also believes the pre-game entertainment was suitable, but admitted they will look at ways to improve the atmosphere inside the ground going forward.
He said: ‘In terms of entertainment we had a nice programme around the stadium, the opening ceremony was very nice.
‘I would not say that something more can be done but of course we will think about how to facilitate more and how to create more of a party atmosphere.’
For the Azerbaijan FA attention will now turn to planning for Euro 2020, where they are scheduled to host four games over 21 days.
The event also faced controversy after Arsenal and Armenia star Henrikh Mkhitaryan was forced to miss the game due to political tensions, but Mammadov was happy that Baku gave a good account of itself despite the criticism.
He added: ‘That was a very good test for us as well, we tested all the transport and organization and we will make an analysis of it, but we have had no negative reports.
‘It is a big event and a national team event. This was a good indicator of what Baku can do.’