Champions League final switch to Wembley looking less likely due to UEFA issues

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Hopes of the Champions League final being staged at Wembley appear to have receded, the PA news agency understands.

UEFA representatives met virtually with Government officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Monday morning to discuss moving the all-English final to Wembley from Istanbul, after the Government’s decision on Friday to place Turkey on its high-risk ‘red list’ for international travel.

Government sources described the meeting as cordial and helpful and stated that the ball remains in UEFA’s court.

However, some of the assurances UEFA is looking for – particularly around quarantine-free travel for sponsors and other VIPs coming into the UK – are not straightforward for the Government to deal with at a time when border controls remain necessarily so strict amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Soccer – UEFA Champions League – Final – AC Milan v Liverpool – Ataturk Olympic Stadium
The Ataturk Stadium had been due to stage the final (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Discussions between the Government and UEFA are ongoing, with the latter hoping to reach a final decision by the end of Tuesday, although it might not be made public until Wednesday.

The Turkish Football Federation is understood to accept it is no longer the preferred choice to host the final, but one other option under consideration could be moving the match to Portugal. The country hosted the final stages of last season’s Champions League last August, and is on the British Government’s ‘green list’ for international travel.

This would mean players, staff and supporters of Chelsea and Manchester City could return to the UK without needing to quarantine.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday that supporters of Chelsea and Manchester City should not travel to Turkey for the match on May 29, but added that the Government was “very open” to staging it here.

Coronavirus – Fri May 7, 2021
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced Turkey had been placed on the ‘red list’ on Friday (Tolga Akmen/PA)

Turkey was placed on the Government’s ‘red list’ after a rise in coronavirus infections in the country.

It is understood UEFA was given notice of the Government’s intention to make this move well ahead of it being publicly confirmed on Friday evening.

Relations between the two are strong after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recognised the key role played by the Government in putting pressure on the clubs who threatened to form a breakaway European Super League.