MARTIN SAMUEL: See sense and move the Champions League final!


MARTIN SAMUEL: UEFA must move the Champions League final to England NOW… they talk of prioritising fans, but how does sticking with Istanbul do that?

  • Manchester City and Chelsea will meet in the Champions League final 
  • Game should be moved to the UK, so the greatest number of fans can attend
  • The final is currently due to be held in Istanbul, which is on the UK’s travel red list
  • Turkey went onto the red list because it has the worst rates of Covid in Europe

We keep hearing these are extraordinary, exceptional times. So do something exceptional and extraordinary. Move the Champions League final to a country where the greatest number of fans can be admitted. Move it to England, move it now.

Not because two English clubs have got there. It would make most sense, but there are precedents.

This is the eighth final with teams from one country, and none of the others have been relocated, including AC Milan versus Juventus in Manchester in 2003 and Bayern Munich versus Borussia Dortmund at Wembley 10 years later.

Manchester City and Chelsea have both made the Champions League final later this month

Manchester City and Chelsea have both made the Champions League final later this month 

No, this is not about convenience. Istanbul had the final and there was no serious pushback against that — until Friday afternoon when Turkey was placed on the Government’s red list. Not for spite, or the purpose of political machination. 

Turkey went red because it has the worst rates of Covid in Europe and travel there should be limited for the purpose of saving lives.

An influx of foreigners into Turkey and then their dispersion around the globe would be an act of utter recklessness. This Government does not want to bring that problem here.

This is the eighth final with teams from one country - other examples include AC Milan versus Juventus in Man in 2003 (above) and Bayern Munich versus Borussia Dortmund at Wembley

This is the eighth final with teams from one country – other examples include AC Milan versus Juventus in Man in 2003 (above) and Bayern Munich versus Borussia Dortmund at Wembley

However, the final is due to be played in Turkey which is now on the government's red list

However, the final is due to be played in Turkey which is now on the government’s red list  

UEFA should be equally mindful. It is not too late to make alternative arrangements. Mountains have been moved in the fight against Covid; only in sport could objections be made over fripperies such as stadium branding. This is about life and death, not marketing.

Wembley could not host the match — it is already booked for the play-offs — but other grounds here could. With restrictions on fan numbers, capacity would not be an issue. Villa Park is the midway point between the finalists, and their offer to host has been made, despite concerns about Uefa standards that apply to conventional finals.

It is not as if this country is short of good stadiums.

The FA could also play its part by proposing to stand aside for Istanbul in 2024, when Wembley is scheduled to hold the final.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed Turkey, Nepal and the Maldives are on the red list

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed Turkey, Nepal and the Maldives are on the red list

UEFA talk of prioritising fans, but how does sticking with Istanbul do that? No English fans will be present if the cost is to quarantine at a hotel for 10 days on arrival back in Britain.

Few have the time or the money — and if they had, plainly the risk is great. And if not here, what of Gdansk, which will host the Europa League final three days earlier? Broadcast units are already in place, the stadium is set up for an event with limited attendance, and Poland is on the amber list, meaning some fans can at least travel.

As it stands, even the participants would have to quarantine in hotels on return from Istanbul. Players could be ruled out of the Euros as a result. 

The FA are hopeful of a sporting exemption, yet why should footballers have to be made a special case, which further distances the game from its followers? Move the match. These are exceptional circumstances, exceptional times. Do the right thing, for once.

The final should be moved to the UK - where the greatest number of fans can be admitted

The final should be moved to the UK – where the greatest number of fans can be admitted

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