Pressure is mounting on UEFA to move the Champions League final to Wembley, with crunch talks this week amid fears over the potential ‘catastrophic consequences’ of holding the match in Istanbul.
Time is running out to change the venue for the showpiece game between Chelsea and Manchester City on May 29 but UEFA’s plans for fans to attend were thrown into turmoil when Turkey was added to the UK’s red list for travel due to the wave of infections in the country.
UEFA would insist on Wembley as the venue if the match is to be moved but the odds remain against the decision unless there is a breakthrough in talks between the UK Government and Europe’s governing body on Monday.
UEFA is coming under pressure to host the Champions League final in England, not Turkey
The May 29 is set to be played in Istanbul, but Turkey was placed on the UK’s ‘red list’ this week
English fans and media would have to isolate for 10 days on return to the UK at a Government approved hotel at personal cost of £1,750.
‘From a health perspective, it is ludicrous to have the Champions League final in Istanbul,’ Chelsea Supporters’ Trust spokesman Dan Silver told The Mail on Sunday.
‘It is reckless to expect 10,000 supporters to fly out, not to mention the ones who would travel anyway. We have all fought really hard for over a year to come through this pandemic and if 10,000 or more come back with anything, the consequences could be catastrophic. It’s crazy.
English sides Chelsea and Manchester City will contest the final in just under three weeks
‘A better venue has to be chosen. There needs to be pressure from authorities to move it back to the UK, not just for the fans but also the greater health of the country.’
It is understood that players would be exempt from the strict quarantine rules on their return — a relief for England manager Gareth Southgate, whose opening European Championship game is just 15 days after the Champions League final.
The EFL indicated yesterday they were open to the play-off finals being moved from Wembley the same weekend. It would not be the first time EFL play-offs have made way for the Champions League final. When Wembley hosted the 2011 final, the League One and Two play-off finals moved to Old Trafford.
London’s Wembley Stadium (above) has been named as one potential venue for the final
However, several hurdles have yet to be cleared if there is a switch to Wembley. Though Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the country would be ready if UEFA asked, the Government remain mindful it is a decision for the European governing body. UEFA had planned for 24,000 spectators at Istanbul, with at least 4,000 tickets each going to City and Chelsea respectively.
Under Government rules, Wembley could only host 10,000. If, like the FA Cup final the week before, it were deemed a test event, it could host 21,000 or even more, which would be a prerequisite for UEFA to agree to a change. Compensation would have to be agreed for Istanbul.
UEFA will be under pressure to change the venue, given president Aleksander Ceferin’s praise of English fans for helping to stop the Super League breakaway.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The Champions League is the pinnacle of European club football — and with two English teams contesting the final, it would be a great shame if fans were unable to attend. It would be brilliant to host the game here.’
THE RACE TO HOST THE GRAND SHOWPIECE
A decision will be made this week on whether the 2020-21 Champions League final will be moved from Istanbul. These are the options UEFA are considering:
Plan A: Keep the final, as scheduled, in Istanbul
With Turkey on the Government’s ‘red list’, it means fans from the UK have been told not to travel to Istanbul. If any do, they will be required to quarantine in an approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 when they return.
And unless Chelsea and Manchester City players are granted special exemption, it also means all their stars will have to quarantine for 10 days in Government-approved hotels and provide umpteen tests — re-emerging just three days before the start of the European Championship finals.
Having pulled last year’s final from Istanbul — it was moved to Lisbon — UEFA are loath to take it off the Turks once more.
Plan B – Hold the match in England, probably at Wembley
The Government is urging Uefa to move the final to England. Wembley would be the obvious choice, which would mean the FA moving the Championship play-off final, due to be staged on the same day.
However, match officials, UEFA officials and foreign media arriving in England would have to either take tests or quarantine in a hotel and take tests, depending on which country they are flying in from, and that clearly will not appeal to Europe’s governing body.
Plan C – Stage it somewhere else in Europe, for example, Lisbon
Lisbon successfully staged last year’s final — having been moved from Istanbul — and since Portugal is on the UK’s ‘green list’, it means open travel between the countries.