SEVILLE, Spain (AP) — More than 5,000 police officers and security personnel are on high alert in Seville as the Spanish city braces for up to 150,000 supporters of Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt arriving for the Europa League final.
Streets are being closed, barriers are being erected around monuments and security has been heightened in subway stations and at the city’s main squares to try to maintain order among the throngs of Scottish and German fans who are expected in the city ahead of Wednesday’s match.
National Police Chief Juan Carlos Castro said 50,000 Frankfurt fans and up to 100,000 Rangers fans could make it to the city ahead of the final at Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium.
Both clubs are hoping to end decades of European despair by winning the final of the second-tier continental competition. Frankfurt hasn’t won a European trophy in more than 40 years, while Rangers’ last European title came 50 years ago.
The winning club will also secure a coveted automatic spot in the group stage of the Champions League next season. Rangers last played in the group stage of the top European club competition in 2010-11, while Frankfurt hasn't played in the tournament since losing the European Cup final to Real Madrid in 1960.
“You see fans travelling in numbers and all sorts of routes to support us. For us we take a lot of pride in the support and backing we get,” Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack said Tuesday. “We’re the lucky ones as we get to play and there are 100,000 who would like to. We want to put on a performance and make them proud.”
Both clubs have huge and loyal fan bases, and many supporters are making the trip despite not having tickets for the final at the 43,000-capacity Sánchez-Pizjuán. Only about 10,000 tickets were allocated for fans of each club. UEFA asked for those without tickets not to travel to Seville and warned about the dangers of purchasing tickets on the secondary market.
“In order to maintain the safety and security of fans, ticket holders should be aware that checks will be carried out at the finals and the local authorities in the cities will take action against the unauthorized resale of tickets,” UEFA said.
Castro said police will pay special attention to fans trying to enter the stadium without tickets.
“Some groups will try to enter the stadium any way they can," he said. “It's a very big risk with that number of fans without tickets.”
The city prepared two fans zones — with a capacity of more than 20,000 each — to accommodate supporters who won’t be able to watch the match inside the stadium.
Hotels were at full capacity and fans from both clubs were seen in several other cities nearby Seville.
“I think it's not about the numbers,” Rangers coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. “You can bring 50 people and and they will give you chaos. I know we have a lot of people traveling with us. We have to enjoy it, and make sure we are not causing any problems. Half of the people will go back home really happy and half of the people will go back home angry, but we should always respect the whole city.”
There had been fan violence involving visiting fans in Seville when local clubs Sevilla and Real Betis hosted matches earlier in the competition. Before the semifinal match between Frankfurt and West Ham in Germany, more than 30 arrests were made after supporters of both clubs clashed in several locations in Frankfurt.
Frankfurt fans swarmed into Barcelona when the team played against the Catalan club in the Europa League quarterfinals, with more than 30,000 making their way into the Camp Nou Stadium even though the club was only allocated about 5,000 tickets for its fans.
“Our fans are exceptional. The have gone to great lengths to follow us around Europe," Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner said. "We’ve got two teams with incredible fans and maybe the best away fans in Europe.”
There had been no incidents of fan violence reported early in the week in Seville but authorities said the worst was yet to come.
“We need maximum coordination between local and federal police to reduce as much as possible the risks that come along an agglomeration of fans like this,” Sevilla mayor Antonio Muñoz said.
The economic impact of the Europa League final to Seville is expected to reach about 50 million euros ($52.6 million), the mayor said.
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press