Plans for the all-English Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea in Istanbul later this month were thrown into chaos on Friday night by the Government’s decision to put Turkey on their travel red list.
The surprise development, which left officials at UEFA and the FA stunned, has major ramifications for the final and the European Championship.
Under current regulations, players of both clubs would have to quarantine for 10 days on their return from Istanbul — effectively ruling seven of Gareth Southgate’s players out of the tournament, which starts on June 11.
Turkey has been placed on the UK Government’s ‘red list’ which has implications for this year’s Champions League final in Istanbul between Chelsea and Manchester City
Chelsea and City players would have to quarantine on their return if the final is played in Turkey
The FA are understood to be lobbying the Government to grant exemptions to Chelsea and City, which would enable the clubs’ personnel to travel to Turkey without quarantining on their return.
If that is refused, UEFA would have little option but to seek an alternative venue.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government are open to hosting the final in the UK, but UEFA are very reluctant to take the biggest club game of the season away from Istanbul for a second successive year.
The Government’s travel list will apply from May 17 and won’t be reviewed until three weeks later, making it too late for any change to affect the May 29 final.
Turkey’s red-list status also means that fans of the two clubs will not be permitted to travel, a major blow as 12,000 of 25,000 Ataturk Stadium tickets had been set aside for them by UEFA.
Staging the final in Turkey would mean England players Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling would have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel on their return
‘It does mean that fans should not travel to Turkey,’ Shapps said.
‘The FA are in discussions with UEFA. We are open to hosting but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA. We are well placed to do (host) it, given it is two English clubs in the final.’
UEFA will wait for a definitive ruling from the Government on whether the competing clubs will receive exemptions before giving serious consideration to moving the final.
Wembley is unavailable as it will be being prepared for eight European Championship matches, while Villa Park does not meet UEFA standards.
One alternative option is to move the final to a country not subject to UK travel restrictions, such as last year’s host Portugal.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed Turkey, Nepal and the Maldives are on the red list
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told The Sun: ‘The Champions League is the pinnacle of European club football.
‘And with two English teams in the final, it would be a great shame if fans were unable to attend.
‘It would be brilliant to host it here if we can. I want to help supporters of both clubs see their team in action.’
The Green List
Britons will be able to travel quarantine-free to 12 countries and territories from May 17. They are:
- Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira
- New Zealand
- Faroe Islands
- Falkland Islands
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- Israel and Jerusalem
‘It is important they reach a decision quickly for the sake of the match-going fans, the earlier the better,’ said Ronan Evain, chief executive of Football Supporters Europe.
‘It would be a sensible decision to move the game. Health comes first and playing in Turkey would put thousands of English fans in an impossible position.
‘These are extraordinary times and they should be treated as such. It should not create a precedent for finals to be moved, depending on who is playing in them.
‘But this would have involved thousands of fans moving from one side of Europe to the other. It is legitimate to move the game.’
Sportsmail understands Chelsea and Manchester City will discuss the matter when the two clubs meet in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The Chelsea Supporters Trust issued a statement on Friday evening that they are appealing to UEFA to bring the final to the UK.
The group tweeted: ‘Turkey has been added to the red list and therefore no #CFC supporters can travel to watch the #UCL final.
‘We are meeting with the @UEFA president this week & will request that the fixture is moved to the UK. #ForTheFans’
There was better news for UK citizens planning on travelling abroad this summer as Portugal and Israel were among 12 countries where British holidaymakers could visit without having to quarantine from May 12.
Also on the list were Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Iceland, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, along with some other islands.
Chelsea fans says they will appeal to UEFA to move the final to England later this month
Lisbon hosted last year coronavirus-affected Champions League final last year in August
Earlier in the week, UEFA maintained their position that the Champions League final will take place in Istanbul, regardless of the full lockdown in place in Turkey.
A statement from Europe’s football governing body read: ‘The UEFA Champions League final will take place in Istanbul on May 29 with a limited number of spectators and we are assured the temporary lockdown which is in force until May 17 should not have any impact on the match.
‘UEFA continues to work closely with the Turkish Football Federation and the local and national authorities to stage the match safely.’
Last week, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a ‘full lockdown’ lasting nearly three weeks in order to bring the daily coronavirus cases below the 5,000 mark.
UEFA maintained that the May 29 event will take place at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium
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