FOOTBALL, as Jock Stein once famously remarked, is nothing without fans.

But it is something which would seem to have been forgotten by the bright sparks at UEFA responsible for organising tonight’s Champions League final in Kiev.

There are set to be hundreds, possibly thousands, of seats lying empty when the European game’s premier club competition reaches its climax in Ukraine.

It is a sight the governing body should be thoroughly ashamed of and resolve to ensure isn’t witnessed again in future.

There will certainly be a sizeable number of genuine supporters of both defending champions Real Madrid and their opponents Liverpool inside the Olympic Stadium this evening.

UEFA has graciously given followers of both clubs 16,626 tickets each for the 63,000-capacity arena. But, as the Americans say, you do the math. That allocation means that little over half of the ground will once again be filled by bona fide fans.

Who has got the rest? Sponsors? Blazers? Corporate fat cats? All of the above. It is quite unnecessary given the vast sums of money generated from advertising and television rights. How much money do UEFA need exactly?

Anyway, if the atmosphere and spectacle suffer as a result of having so few Real and Liverpool supporters, which they will, it is a false economy.

Typically for such an occasion, tickets have been changing hands for astronomical prices. One with a face value of £281 was advertised online for just under £15,000. A top end hospitality package came in at £20,000. But even UEFA were getting in on the action. Tickets were available on their website for £394.

But the problems for fans didn’t end once they had got their hands on one. In fact, they were only just beginning. Liverpool, with a large a fanatical support, quickly sold out their briefs. Those lucky enough to get their hands on one, however, were quickly confronted with exorbitant flight and accommodation prices.

The website shows that one room in the Hotel Verhovina in Kiev tonight costs £859. This time next week it will set the traveller back just £16. Only 50 times more expensive then.

Anyone hoping to fly out to the game last night could have picked up a return flight from London for £1,214 on But if they wanted to go next Friday it would set them back just £267.

Around 2,000 of their Real Madrid counterparts who were successful in their ballot returned their tickets. They were reissued, but it is expected that hundreds will remain unsold. Not even the chance to see their heroes win a record 13th title could tempt Los Blancos fans to part with the sums required to attend.

There are valid reasons why the game is being staged in Ukraine. Having the showpiece match in Kiev means interest in the competition and the game as a whole is generated outside the major footballing nations whose teams are invariably involved in the latter stages.

If the final was simply rotated between cities in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain there would be valid complaints that the high-profile fixture wasn’t being used as it could and should be – to spread the popularity of the beautiful game.

Nor are the sky-high fight prices and ridiculous accommodation costs the organisers’ doing. But UEFA should have a long, hard look at what the Champions League final has turned into after the winning captain is presented with the famous trophy tonight.

It has become a corporate monstrosity that has become far too expensive for ordinary fans is and that should be a source of deep concern.