Champions League: FA in talks over relocating final as Turkey joins red list

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<span>Photograph: Ben Stansall/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Ben Stansall/Reuters

The Football Association is in talks with Uefa over relocating the Champions League final to England after Turkey was placed on the UK government’s travel red list.

Uefa had been expected to confirm details on Friday for the final on 29 May, with Manchester City and Chelsea fans expected to be allocated at least 4,000 tickets each for the match in Istanbul.

That decision has been postponed pending negotiations, however, with English supporters told to stay at home by the UK government.

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The chances of the game staying in Turkey are remote unless the players are granted an exemption from having to quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel on their return to the UK.

Euro 2020, in which most players of both teams would be expecting to compete in, begins on 11 June, with training camps and pre‑tournament friendlies scheduled before that date.

“We are having to be cautious about this,” the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said. “I’m afraid we’re having to put Turkey on the red list and it will have ramifications.

“Fans should not travel to Turkey. The FA are in discussions with Uefa already on this and we are very open to hosting the final. Ultimately it’s the decision of Uefa. We have a successful track record of matches with spectators. I’ve spoken to the sports minister, we’re very open to it and in the end it’s a decision for Uefa but given it’s two English clubs in the final we’re waiting to hear what they have to say.”

Uefa has insisted throughout the week that the final would stay at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium despite the current coronavirus situation in the country.

Turkey is in full lockdown until 17 May at the earliest, but while infection rates are still high, with more than 20,000 new cases being recorded each day, they have halved in the past two weeks. The country is also in the top 10 of global vaccination rates, a factor the UK government considers when determining travel status.

It is unclear as to which venue the match could be played at in England, with Wembley hosting the EFL play-offs that weekend and many club grounds expected to rip up their pitches at the end of the domestic season. Hampden Park remains a possibility. It could be that the match is played elsewhere with Portugal named on the government’s green list for travel, meaning that fans and players could travel to the country without quarantining on return. Lisbon hosted the final three rounds of the competition last summer, after the Champions League resumed following the first wave of the pandemic. Istanbul had originally been scheduled to host the final then too.

It is understood neither Chelsea nor Manchester City are lobbying Uefa for a change of venue, with both clubs having only on Friday signed a letter of reconciliation with the governing body over their brief involvement in the European Super League.

A Uefa spokesperson said: “Uefa has just learned that Turkey has been put on the red list and we need a bit of time to reflect on the topic.”

When approached for comment, the FA said that the final choice of venue was a matter for Uefa.

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