Neil Humphreys: Europa League disgrace shames game
Mkhitaryan and fans are paying for Uefa's Baku farce
Without a ball being kicked, the Europa League final has already failed. The alleged showpiece contradicts the very essence of professional sport.
A player can't play. Supporters can't support.
These are the basic prerequisites of any football match, never mind a final, and if the organising body cannot fulfil such simple criteria, then an alternative must be found.
But Uefa has done nothing, beyond hiding behind some corporate fluff about the upcoming final being a positive example of "spreading the game", which is patently nonsense.
Giving the Europa League final to Baku in Azerbaijan doesn't spread the game, but damages it. Arsenal and Chelsea must travel to the edge of Asia with almost no fans and no Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Gunners midfielder's inclusion was considered too risky and the club felt that both Azerbaijan and Uefa hadn't guaranteed his safety.
Mkhitaryan is Armenian. There are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to a conflict between the two countries over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Arsenal had earlier withdrawn Mkhitaryan in the group stage when they travelled to Azerbaijan, but had hoped for Uefa's assurances that he'd be protected for the final.
Those assurances didn't come. So a footballer that had featured in 11 of the 14 games on the road to Baku sacrificed himself.
Mkhitaryan couldn't be sure of his security inside the stadium. He couldn't be sure of his family's safety around the city. And he couldn't be sure that his presence wouldn't distract his teammates.
His enforced absence is a consequence of Uefa's incompetence, greed or lack of foresight, depending on which aspect of this appalling farce rankles the most.
Those who suggest elite football and territorial disputes do not overlap should consider reading anything on the geopolitics of the Middle East, the unstoppable rise of sportswashing and the increasingly dominant role of oligarchs seeking a PR makeover through the game.
Even if Uefa couldn't anticipate the knock-on effects of the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute, an alternative venue had to be considered once Arsenal's progress ensured the prospect of an Armenian in the final.
But Uefa ploughed on regardless, preparing for a final that is problematic on almost every level.
Apart from the transparent attempt of another oil-rich nation seeking to improve its reputation through hosting this final and four Euro 2020 games, Baku is ill-equipped to play host.
First, it's remote. According to Google Maps, the distance between Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and Baku's Olympic Stadium is roughly 4,620 kilometres (it's only 6,900km from Baku to Singapore, on the other side of another continent).
Second, Baku's airport cannot handle more than 15,000 arrivals a day, forcing Uefa to allocate just 6,000 tickets to each club (despite the stadium holding 68,000).
Arsenal and Chelsea have yet to sell half their ticket allocation, as the journey is too far and the flight just too expensive. For good measure, the inflated match-day tickets are beyond the reach of most locals, offering the very real prospect of the Europa League final being played in a half-empty stadium.
Baku is just not fit for purpose, the latest example of a football occasion being really about anything other than football.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has used the final as a propaganda tool, claiming that such prestigious hosting gigs prove that he rules over a Eurasian logistical hub.
It's a logistical hub that cannot cater for more than 15,000 supporters at the airport and cannot guarantee the safety of one of the final's participants, but in some ways that doesn't matter. Baku has done its job, showing again how elite football and regional politics are indistinguishable.
As a host, Baku's distant location, patchy infrastructure and fragile political climate would tick as many boxes as Qatar 2022. Almost none.
But the official response to such perplexing, contradictory decision-making has been pretty much the same. Almost nothing.
Uefa can spread the game wherever it likes, but if players and fans aren't able to come along for the ride, then the football body has defeated the purpose of its existence.
If Mkhitaryan can't play, why should anyone else? If the vast majority of supporters can't buy tickets, why should anyone else? These are introspective questions for Uefa to answer quickly, before the final, and certainly before the worrying prospect of Azerbaijan hosting games at Euro 2020.
As it stands, the Europa League final has already failed the only people that should ever matter, those inside the stadium, on both sides of the white line.