It looks like it is about to happen again. With coronavirus raging in Istanbul, reports suggest UEFA is set to move the Champions League final to Portugal for the second year running.
There had previously been talks to host the all-English final between Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London. Reports, however, suggest that the Estadio do Dragao, home to FC Porto, will be handed hosting rights after UEFA was unable to secure the quarantine exemptions required for media and guests to be able to fly into the English capital.
On Wednesday, Portuguese authorities approved the return of fans for the final round of league matches on May 19 which will allow stadiums to fill to 10 per cent capacity.
Turkey on Red List
UEFA’s hopes of playing its club showpiece in Istanbul were scuppered by Turkey being added to the United Kingdom’s “red list” of countries with severe coronavirus outbreaks.
The British government’s decision just two days after the semifinal lineup was completed made it impossible for supporters to travel to Turkey from England. The UK government immediately opened discussions with UEFA about the possibility of moving the May 29 final to England.
However, discussions between UEFA and the UK failed to reach a resolution on Monday with the competition’s organizer wanting waivers to allow media, sponsors and guests to fly in without having to quarantine, people familiar with the talks told The Associated Press.
Portugal is on England’s “green list” of 12 low-risk territories where from next Monday, people aren’t required to quarantine upon their return, making it easier for thousands of City and Chelsea fans to travel. Portugal would have to lift its current block on tourists from Britain.
Impact in Istanbul
UEFA’s plans to move the final from Istanbul to another European city came as no big surprise to Turkey as European football’s governing body had also moved the final last year, when the Turkish metropolis had also been slated to host the event.
However, the discussions in the Turkish public and the media have mostly concentrated on the statements made by Nihat Özdemir, the head of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF). Özdemir told a Turkish newspaper last week that “they would come to play the final game like a lamb”, suggesting UEFA ultimately wouldn’t renege on the initial deal.
However, UEFA’s expected decision to move the final from Istanbul has highly embarrassed Özdemir, who has already been under fire at home due to a number of controversial referee decisions in the final weeks of the Turkish Super League.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has also drawn criticism from the opposition due to the possible switch of the venue. Turkey’s main opposition party CHP has accused the government of failing to manage the coronavirus pandemic and causing Turkey to miss the chance to promote the country by hosting such a big event.
The possible switch could also globally send an undesirable message to the potential tourists, eyeing Turkey as a holiday destination, ahead of the tourism season – especially with Britain being one of Turkey’s biggest sources of foreign visitors.
That would definitely undermine Turkey’s efforts to revitalize tourism, a critical sector of the Turkish economy.
The pandemic has hurt Turkey’s tourism revenues, which plunged by two-thirds to $12 billion (€9.89 billion) last year.
km,co,pfd/jt, (AP, Reuters)
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