Arsenal fans face “major inconvenience” after venue switch

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The decision to relocate Arsenal’s Europa League fixture with Vorskla Poltava to Kiev will be a “major inconvenience” to both fans and the club, according to a leading supporters’ group.

The Group E game had been scheduled to be held at Stadion Vorskla in Poltava – around 185 miles (300 kilometres) east of the Ukrainian capital.

However, after martial law was declared in some regions of the country, UEFA’s emergency panel announced on Tuesday night that the match will now take place in Kiev’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium.

Ukraine’s president has called for martial law to be imposed in the country due to escalating tensions with Russia, whose coastguards are accused of seizing three Ukrainian ships in Crimea on Sunday.

Around 500 Arsenal fans were expected to make the trip to Poltava – with some already affected by the late change.

John Williamson, an Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association committee member, was already in situ for Thursday night’s game having planned ahead.

Asked how the announcement had affecting plans, he told Press Association Sport: “Dramatically.

“We arrived in Poltava on Tuesday with an original plan of spending four nights here, returning home on Saturday.

“Having been to Kiev three times previously, We have just decided that on matchday we will go by train to Kiev, return to Poltava on Friday and go to Kharkiv on Saturday for our flight back to London.”

A statement released by UEFA on Tuesday confirmed the venue change and said other fixtures may fall foul of the political tensions in the region.

It read: “UEFA’s emergency panel has today taken the decision to relocate FC Vorskla’s UEFA Europa League group stage match against Arsenal FC from the city of Poltava, following the introduction of martial law into certain regions in Ukraine.

“The match will now take place at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on Thursday, November 29 at 1855CET (1755GMT).

“UEFA will continue to monitor and assess the security situation in Ukraine in the coming days before making any decision on potentially relocating other matches.”

Press Association Sport understands a small group of Arsenal support staff were also already in Poltava before UEFA’s decision – with Williamson unhappy about the governing body’s handling of the situation.

“It’s a major inconvenience not only for the fans, but for the team as well,” he added.

“Having spent a night in Poltava, I see no issues whatsoever with the match being played here.

“I understand the political issues in surrounding areas but there are no problems in the town. I feel that UEFA hasn’t assessed the situation and has overreacted.”

Arsenal are already through to the last 32 of the Europa League and will win the group with victory over Poltava in Kiev, having beaten the Ukrainian side 4-2 at the Emirates Stadium in September.

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