LONDON (AP) — Supporters wanting to stay in the city hosting this season's Champions League final are in for a shock.
Hotels in Cardiff are expected to be completely full for the night of June 3, even though the semifinals haven't even been played yet. The only likely space available for fans in the Welsh capital is tents, some of which can cost up to $2,300 for the Saturday night.
UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, requires host cities to reserve hotel rooms far in advance of games to ensure players, officials and sponsors have accommodation — putting the squeeze on visiting fans when finals are played in smaller cities. With about 350,000 inhabitants, Cardiff is the first location with a population below 1 million to host the Champions League final since Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 13 years ago.
"Cardiff is a compact city and hotels are expected to be at capacity," the Cardiff local authority told The Associated Press. "The council ... agreed a contract with hoteliers to block book a proportion of the hotel stock in Cardiff, so we were able to host this prestigious event."
The pressure on hotel space would have been eased had an English team reached the final, but the last four are all from continental Europe. In the semifinals over the next two weeks, Real Madrid and Atletico meet in a Madrid derby, while Monaco takes on Juventus.
All hotel chains in central Cardiff, including Hilton and InterContinental properties, have been listed as full online for a year.
"The hotel trade is market driven and the council doesn't have any authority over them," the Cardiff Council said in an email. "Hoteliers that wanted to accept the terms that were being offered did and if they chose not to, that was based on their own commercial assumptions."
The only option now for supporters hoping to stay near to the Millennium Stadium is camping , with the cheapest tents costing 195 pounds ($250) for one night and the most expensive 1,800 pounds ($2,300).
"Whilst Cardiff's accommodation capacity is lower than previous UCL final host cities, the Cardiff 2017 LOC (local organizing committee) have taken pro-active steps to ensure that it will deliver a memorable event for all attendees," UEFA said.
UEFA said there would be additional trains and buses to transport 15,000 fans back to London. That is a three-hour journey, without traffic, by road, or two hours by rail. Transport links have also been enhanced late into the night for the one-hour trip to Bristol, where the only available hotel rooms for June 3 start at $350, according to hotel comparison websites.
Many visitors for the final will only make a fleeting visit to the host city, with plans to fly about 25,000 people in and out on the day by charter aircraft from Cardiff, Bristol and Birmingham, UEFA said.
Cardiff was awarded the Champions League final by the UEFA executive committee in 2015 without an open contest several months after losing a bid to be a 2020 European Championship venue.
Future hosts have to bid for the right to host the final under changes implemented after Aleksander Ceferin was elected UEFA president last year. Accommodation capacity will be a factor when bids are assessed by UEFA.
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