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'If two Azerbaijani teams came to London nobody would complain' - UEFA president hits back at Europa League criticisms

The president of Europe's governing body has defended their decision to host the final in Baku, despite fierce criticism from both fans and pundits

The popularity of English clubs across Europe is being damaged by complaints over the decision to hold the Europa League final in Azerbaijan, according to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

The European governing body was widely criticised by fans and pundits for its choice to host the final in Baku, which saw Chelsea beat Premier League rivals Arsenal 4-1 to lift the trophy for the second time.

Ticketing and travel issues prevented many supporters from attending the game, with the showpiece final ultimately played out in front of a sparsely populated Baku Olympic Stadium.

UEFA was also criticised for its handling of Henrikh Mkhitaryan's security concerns, with the Arsenal forward deciding not to travel because of the tension between Azerbaijan and his country of Armenia.

The Gunners’ managing director Vinai Venkatesham publically condemned the situation, describing it as ‘unacceptable’ and adding: “We don't feel he can travel and it's extraordinarily sad.

“You don't get a chance to play in major European finals often and Miki has had it taken away from him.”

Ceferin has responded in robust fashion to the English sides' complaints and says Azerbaijani supporters would have had no issues travelling to London had the situation been reversed.

In a talk at Oxford University, he said: "Whenever we have English clubs, we have complaints. You don't help yourself with your popularity within European football with that.

"If somebody asks me why we played in Baku, I would say: people live there, homosapiens live there. If we have two Azerbaijani teams playing in London nobody would complain. They would come and play without any problems.

"We decided a year and a half ago that we play in Baku which has a modern stadium of 70,000. I think there is only one stadium in England that is bigger.

"They had to watch the game at 11pm because of the time difference but nobody complained."

Ceferin, who was re-elected unopposed in January to begin a new four-year presidency, also reiterated his desire to grow football outside of the dominant European nations.

"We have to develop football everywhere not England, Germany only," he added.