Champions League final venue uncertain, 'delicate' talks ongoing after Turkey put on UK's red list

Delicate negotiations are going on between the British government, European soccer's governing body UEFA and others about where the Champions League final should be played since Turkey was put on the travel red list, senior British Minister Michael Gove said on May 9.

Premier League - Manchester City v Chelsea - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 8, 2021 Manchester City's Phil Foden in action with Chelsea's Kurt Zouma.

Duvar English - Reuters

The status of the Champions League final on May 29 between Manchester City and Chelsea in Istanbul was thrown into doubt on May 7 after the UK government placed Turkey on the travel red list with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for the showdown to come to Britain.

British transport minister Grant Shapps said that travel to red list countries was not allowed except for in "the most extreme circumstances" and anyone returning from a red list country has to enter and pay for compulsory hotel quarantine.

"It does mean that fans should not travel to Turkey," said Shapps, who raised the possibility of the match being moved to England.

"The FA [Football Association] are in discussions with UEFA. We are open to hosting but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA," he added.

"The Champions League is the pinnacle of European club football," Johnson was quoted as saying by The Sun newspaper on May 7.

"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 if we can. I want to help supporters of both clubs see their team in action."

UEFA said they would take time to reflect on the UK government's decision. 

"UK officials seem to insist but we are moving ahead according to UEFA directions and statements. There were no updates on this from an official channel, we will be hosting the final in Istanbul," a Turkish Football Federation spokesman said.

The issue of whether players would be granted an exemption from the quarantine was not clear but a 14-day quarantine would impact players involved in UEFA's Euro 2020 which starts on June 11.

Turkey has in recent weeks ranked fourth globally in terms of daily COVID-19 cases, prompting a nationwide lockdown this month until May 17. 

Media reports have said that Turkish football authorities had been hoping to allow tickets for at least 4,000 fans of each team as part of a 25,000 capacity crowd at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium.

Senior British Minister Michael Gove on May 9 said that delicate negotiations are ongoing between the British government, UEFA and others about where the Champions League final should be played.

"There are delicate negotiations that are going on at the moment," Gove said on Sky News when asked about where the final should take place.

"My friend, my colleague the culture secretary Oliver Dowden [also the minister for sport] is talking to people about this at the moment, and so I don't want to cut across that. But I'm sure that fans in the UK would dearly love to see the final played here in the UK."

Asked about the same issue in a separate interview on the BBC, Gove said Dowden was talking to "UEFA and others."