Manchester City fans, including veteran TV presenter John Stapleton, found themselves trapped on buses in Istanbul with no access to water or toilets amid another night of organizational chaos during the League final UEFA champions on Saturday.
Europe’s governing body is under intense scrutiny the morning after City’s Champions League triumph over Inter Milan, with fans reporting horrific scenes on UEFA buses and local organizers protesting. insisted that they go to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium on the outskirts of Istanbul.
City fans were forced to urinate through windows, an eyewitness told Telegraph Sport, when drivers refused to stop for toilet breaks. Fans of the two clubs were separated during pre-match planning, with Inter Milan fans directed to the Istanbul Metro and City fans banned from using it. Instead, City fans were directed to a transport hub in Yenikapi, outside central Istanbul, to catch buses to the stadium.
City fan Nick Stapleton, 35, a TV journalist and son of John, said he had also seen disabled City fans stranded in impassable gravel car parks for wheelchairs. Many of them had to be lifted by other fans without the help of the match authorities. Nick was also made aware of a City fan who was still at the stadium around 7am the next morning, unable to catch a direct bus to the airport.
The problems started when local police told City fans boarding the bus at Yenikapi that they should throw away the bottles of water they had brought with them – although none were available on board. During the ensuing two-hour journey the 16 miles to Ataturk Stadium, Nick and John saw desperate fans urinating out of windows and vomiting. On another bus, fans forced the driver to stop to allow him to urinate at the side of the road.
Nick said: “My dad has been attending City games since 1954 but by the time we arrived at the stadium on Saturday night he said it would be his last game. He’s 77 and had hip surgery six weeks ago, and we couldn’t even get access to water. After a two hour drive we arrived at 5.45pm for a 10pm kick off to be told that was the last drink orders in the UEFA fanzone.
Nick stood in line for two hours to buy water at the end of town. He said two concession stands with six staff each, and just four card machines in between, were all that was provided to serve 15,000 City fans in the lower tier. Mastercard is one of UEFA’s main sponsors.
The Stapletons, both lifetime season ticket holders for City, had purchased UEFA Tier Three tickets in Block 333 of the stadium for £156 each. At the concession stand, when Nick finally reached the front, two kofte kebabs, two bottles of water and a can of sponsor Pepsi were a total of €50 (£42.70).
“Leaving the stadium was,” Nick said, “legitimately scary.” At 12:30 p.m. after the trophy presentation, the Stapletons returned to the designated bus pick-up to take City fans back to Yenikapi, only to find it in chaos. The only two buses were full and the return ramp to the congested freeway was blocked with taxis. “The parking lots were gravel and we saw people in wheelchairs either having to be dragged in their chairs across the surface or pulled out and carried,” Nick said.
“The common factor is that they were all UEFA games”
Father and son finally decided they had no choice but to walk down the freeway to try and find a cab. After a mile of wandering, they found one. The journey took an hour and a half and cost €100 (£85.50). Some City fans went to the tube station and found the service working. Others were turned away by the police responsible for reserving the metro exclusively for the use of Inter supporters.
Nick said: “The only way UEFA can show they care is if they spend money to make the experience bearable for the match fans. If they sent their delegates to experience what we’re going through – just for one game – they’d understand. It’s about funding the logistics well. UEFA doesn’t care, because they know that for many of us, matches like this are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we will do what it takes to get to the game.
“Look at what happened in the Champions League final in Paris last year and at Wembley [in 2021 at the European Championship final] and the common factor is that they were all UEFA games.
UEFA has been contacted for comment.
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