Uefa promises Man City and Chelsea fans their flights and hotels for Champions League final will not be worthless

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The Champions League final has a new home - AP
The Champions League final has a new home - AP

Uefa promised Manchester City and Chelsea fans they would not be stuck with worthless flights and hotels for the Champions League final after Portugal lifted its ban on British tourists but failed to rule out forcing those attending the game into a travel “bubble”.

European football’s governing body made the pledge amid fears those who had already spent hundreds of pounds on trips to the all-English showdown in Porto would be denied a refund if made to go instead on a day-trip organised by both clubs.

The Portuguese government confirmed on Friday that “British tourists” would be allowed to enter the country from midnight on Monday in an announcement that appeared to supersede one made less than 24 hours earlier that those travelling to the Champions League final would “come and return on the same day”.

Uefa on Friday night admitted it was still working on securing an exemption to this so that those to have booked flights and accommodation independently would be allowed into the game.

But it promised to find a solution, with a spokesman telling Telegraph Sport: “There will be a system that allows the small number of fans that won’t be on club trips to pick their tickets up.”

Kevin Parker, general secretary of Manchester City Supporters Club, earlier said he would be “very, very angry” if fans had been left with worthless flights and hotels through no fault of their own.

He and Cliff Auger, the chairman of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, both called for Uefa to foot the bill if that proved to be the case.

And Parker also warned its president, Aleksander Ceferin, that those City fans who did go to the game would also make their feelings abundantly clear were the situation not resolved.

Parker said: “If he thinks that we booed the Uefa anthem before then he’d better get ready for what’s in store.”

It also emerged on Friday that Uefa was considering moving next season’s potentially all-English Super Cup from Belfast to Istanbul to compensate the latter city for losing the Champions League final.

Comment: A Champions League final in Porto is a good compromise to a strange situation

By Jim White

About ten years ago I met someone in a significant role at one of the corporations that sponsor international football. They told me, candidly, that they didn’t really have much affection for the game, but they quite enjoyed its grand occasions.

“I’ve only ever been to six football matches in my life,” they explained. “Four Champions League finals and two World Cup finals.”

The idea that the Champions League final is about the fans has always been a romantic notion: its purpose, rather, is as a hospitality event for the corporations that finance Uefa. These guests don’t bother with the boring group games. They want to be at the climax, to be at the centre of things when they matter.

After all that is what they paid for. And they come in their droves. Anyone who has been to a Champions League final will have seen outside the stadium the crocodiles of guests following guides holding up signs with their company logo, leading them to their seats.

Since Uefa as an organisation is entirely dependent on their money, accommodating them is the first priority: at least a third of the capacity at any final is dedicated to the sponsors. That was why the match never had a chance of being held at Wembley. Sure, after Istanbul was deemed impossible given it was on the British government’s red list of destinations, in terms of scale and the possibility of being able to hold a crowd, it seemed an ideal location. But Uefa wanted their guests to be able to fly in and out of London without being obliged to quarantine. The government refused to allow a waiver on their Covid regulations. There was never any chance of compromise.

So the game has switched to Portugal, one of the few countries in the world willing to embrace a sudden sizeable influx without restriction. And the limited number of fans of Chelsea and Manchester City able to take their place in the reduced capacity of Porto's Estadio de Dragao will not have to isolate when they return.

Though, for all the convoluted reasons why it is taking place there, for the English supporters Porto is probably the best possible option. This is the Champions League final: going to Wembley wouldn't be quite the same. After a season in which they have not been able to see their teams compete in European competition except on television, heading out to Portugal promises to be a glorious, heady thing. Getting on a plane with your mates and spending a couple of days alongside the Douro estuary, visiting the cellars of the Villa Nova de Gaia and sampling the local brew: this would be an away day to remember.

Indeed, in this season in which the views of supporters were treated with contempt by club owners - not least those of the two clubs involved - this promises to be a proper fan event. A reaffirmation of what this competition means that would not have occurred had it been held at Wembley.

Though for anyone lucky enough to secure a ticket, don't be surprised if the person you end up sitting next to has absolutely no idea who is playing. They will only be there because a sponsor invited them.