David James: "UEFA made the right call with the venue for the Europa League Conference final"

A general view of the Eden stadium ahead of the UEFA Under 21 European Championship 2015 Final between Sweden and Portugal at Eden Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.
(Image credit: Denis Doyle - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

The venue selected for West Ham's Europa Conference League final clash with Fiorentina on Wednesday is not an issue, despite fan complaints that it's not large enough to host such an event.

That is the opinion of former West Ham United and England goalkeeper David James, who believes Prague's 20,000-capacity Fortuna Arena is a wise choice, as there will be no empty seats on the night.

"UEFA had a similar problem with Liverpool when they reached the final of the Europa League in 2016 and the final was played at Basel’s home ground," James tells King Casino Bonus. "That decision was made at the start of the 2014/15 season, and I’m sure it was a similar situation this time around with the Conference League.

"Of course, West Ham are always going to take huge numbers out to Prague and that is something the organisers could have looked at earlier in the tournament. The possibility UEFA have to face as well, is that they get two smaller clubs reaching the final and it is hosted in a 50,000-seater stadium which they cannot fill."

James believes the smaller stadium will create a better atmosphere and look far better to those watching at home on television.

"From an optics point of view, it looks far better for UEFA to have a 20,000 seater stadium which is absolutely packed to the rafters, than a 50,000-seater stadium that they cannot fill," he adds. "The argument then would be that the Conference League isn’t a serious competition and then people would be saying, ‘What is the point when they cannot even sell out a stadium?’ The narrative for West Ham fans will quickly change after the game itself as well, the historic moment with all the regalia and the vociferous support they will get will become the story, rather than the number of seats.

"What people will hopefully remember is the open top bus parade through East London or the heroics of the players to actually win the trophy. I remember a similar situation at Portsmouth in 2008 when those moments are what stay with you as a player and for the fans as well."

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Ed McCambridge
Staff Writer

Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Favourite FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.