UEFA are ‘seriously considering’ moving the Champions League final to England later this month after the UK Government put Turkey on its red list for overseas travel. It means the final looks increasingly likely to be hosted at Wembley, while Villa Park is also an option on the table.
The final was scheduled to be held in Istanbul, but those plans were thrown into turmoil when Manchester City and Chelsea won their respective semi-finals. Foreign travel is still highly restricted for UK citizens, so while the players and staff would likely be granted exemptions to fly to Turkey, fans would be forbidden.
UEFA had hoped to see 12,000 fans in attendance at the final as they ramp up their bid to get supporters back in stadia ahead of this summer’s European Championship.
This has led to the FA and the UK Government issuing them with something of an ultimatum – move the final to England, or play it in front of an empty stadium.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a press conference last week: “I’m afraid we are having to put Turkey on the red list and this will have a number of ramifications.
“First of all this does mean, in regard to the Champions League, that fans should not travel to Turkey.
“The FA, I can tell you, are in discussions with UEFA already on this. We are very open to hosting the final but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA.”
The Telegraph are reporting that Wembley is a serious option on the table, and UEFA are currently 50/50 over whether to move the final to England’s national stadium. Aston Villa’s Villa Park is another option given it is roughly equidistant to both City and Chelsea and the Birmingham Mail say the Midlands club have pitched the idea to the FA.
But Wembley seems the more likely of the two, since Villa Park is not a UEFA-approved venue.
Moving the final to England is not a cut-and-dry decision, however. While it seems logical, UEFA would have major issues relocating the final at the last minute. It is believed that decision would incense the Turkish FA, while broadcasters would be equally displeased as the strict quarantine restrictions in place in the UK would cause serious disruption.
If it is Wembley which is the preferred option, then another issue at play is the EFL Playoffs. The Championship playoff final is scheduled for 29 May – the same day as the Champions League final.
UEFA must decide if opening the final to fans is worth rocking the boat, and as it stands, it could go either way.