England could host CL final due to new Turkey travel curbs
The all-English Champions League final could be played at home after Turkey was added to England’s “red list” of countries where all but essential travel is banned due to severe coronavirus outbreaks.
Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season.
But the British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions, and said the English Football Association was in talks with Champions League organizer UEFA about staging the game in Britain, instead.
The most logical English venue to move the game to is Wembley with the London stadium staging eight games of the European Championship across June and July, so it has UEFA’s required logistics and broadcasting infrastructure already in place. Wembley was also already due to stage the 2024 Champions League final so it could be moved up three years.
While Villa Park in the central England city of Birmingham has been floated as an option, it is an older stadium that would require significant infrastructure being installed to reach UEFA requirements.
“We are very open to hosting the final but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. “The U.K. has already got a successful track record of football matches with spectators, so we are well placed to do it.
“Given there are two English clubs in that final, we look forward to what they have to say.”
Turkey is in the second week of a three-week national lockdown and government figures show coronavirus cases are declining but 20,107 new infections were announced on Friday and 278 deaths. The vaccine rollout in Britain meant the country recorded 2,490 cases on Friday and 15 deaths.
People from England should visit only red-list countries “in the most extreme of circumstances,” Shapps said. Anyone returning from them must stay in hotels for 10 days at their own expense, with meals delivered to their door.
Players would also be required to enter quarantine, unless exemptions were granted, which would impact their preparations for the European Championship, which opens on June 11 and is being staged across 10 countries.
If the Champions League final was moved to Wembley, the English Football League would have to accept moving the date of the Championship playoff to determine the final promotion place to the Premier League, which is scheduled to be played at the stadium on May 29.
Wembley in recent weeks has staged the only football games with fans in England in 2021 as part of test events, with the crowd for the FA Cup final on May 15 rising to 21,000 people who have to produce a negative coronavirus test.
At least 22,500 fans will be allowed into the three group-stage Euro 2020 games at Wembley in June, with the 90,000-capacity Wembley set to be half-full for the final on July 11.
The pandemic already prevented Istanbul staging the 2020 Champions League final with the game moved to Lisbon to be played in an empty stadium.
By ROB HARRIS