Michael Gove offers hope to Wembley hosting the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea, as the UK Government minister admits ‘there are delicate negotiations going on at the moment’
- The Champions League final is scheduled to take place in Istanbul on May 29
- It is likely the game will now be moved with Turkey on the Government’s red list
- There is hope Wembley will be able to host instead although obstacles remain
- Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said that ‘delicate talks’ are underway today
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has revealed that ‘delicate negotiations’ are currently taking place over moving the Champions League final after Turkey, the host for the fixture, was placed on the Government’s ‘red list’.
Manchester City and Chelsea will face each other in the all-English showpiece on May 29, but the clash in Istanbul is currently mired in uncertainty with supporters of the two clubs now unable to attend.
The situation may see the game held elsewhere with hope building that Wembley will be able to step in – and the credentials for the national stadium appear to have taken a boost with talks underway.
‘There are delicate negotiations that are going on at the moment,’ Gove told Sky News when asked about where the final should take place.
Minister Michael Gove admitted talks are underway over moving the Champions League final
Manchester City and Chelsea will face off in the fixture, which was set to take place in Istanbul
‘My friend, my colleague, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden, 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.’
It was revealed by Sportsmail last night that pressure has been mounting on UEFA to move the final to Wembley and discussions were due to be held this week.
UEFA are under pressure to change venues for the final with Turkey named on the UK’s ‘red list’
Time is rapidly running out to make the change, however, after UK citizens were told to avoid travelling to Turkey ‘for leisure purposes’ as a result of the wave of coronavirus infections in the country.
Anyone with ambitions to fly out to Istanbul would have to quarantine at a hotel upon their arrival back in the UK and undergo two separate Covid-19 tests.
The isolation period, which would have to be followed by fans and members of the press alike at an approved hotel, lasts for 10 days. A personal cost of £1,750 also has to be paid.
UEFA and FA officials are said to have been left stunned by the decision to place Turkey on the ‘red list’.
There is hope that Wembley will be able to step in although several hurdles must be overcome
It is understood that UEFA are open to settling on Wembley as the new venue for the showdown – but a breakthrough will be needed between the UK Government and governing bodies on Monday.
The EFL indicated yesterday that they would be willing to move the three play-off finals, which are due to be played at Wembley on the same weekend as the Champions League final, to help out.
This would allow the biggest game in European knockout football to take place in London, although several hurdles remain.
The Government are believed to be wary that the decision to change hosts is solely for UEFA to make, but the interest in taking over has been made abundantly clear by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has emphasised the UK’s desire to host the final later this month
Issues with ticketing would also have to be resolved. There would be 24,000 spectators allowed in Istanbul, with at least 4,000 tickets each handed out to City and Chelsea.
Wembley, however, may only be able to take in 10,000 people. This figure would be able to increase to 21,000 or more but the match would have to be designated as another test event.
This was described by Sportsmail as being a ‘prerequisite’ for UEFA to agree to changing the venue.
The current position from UEFA looks to have changed over recent days after the organisation initially maintained in mid-week that the final would still take place in Istanbul as planned.
The Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul was initially named as the venue for the crunch clash
A statement 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.’
Their stance came despite Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, imposing a ‘full lockdown’ lasting nearly three weeks in an attempt to bring down daily coronavirus cases below the 5,000 mark.
THE RACE TO HOST THE FINAL
A decision will be made this week on whether the 2020-21 Champions League final will be moved from Istanbul. These are the options UEFA are considering:
Plan A: Keep the final, as scheduled, in Istanbul
With Turkey on the Government’s ‘red list’, it means fans from the UK have been told not to travel to Istanbul. If any do, they will be required to quarantine in an approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 when they return.
And unless Chelsea and Manchester City players are granted special exemption, it also means all their stars will have to quarantine for 10 days in Government-approved hotels and provide umpteen tests — re-emerging just three days before the start of the European Championship finals.
Having pulled last year’s final from Istanbul — it was moved to Lisbon — UEFA are loath to take it off the Turks once more.
Plan B – Hold the match in England, probably at Wembley
The Government is urging Uefa to move the final to England. Wembley would be the obvious choice, which would mean the FA moving the Championship play-off final, due to be staged on the same day.
However, match officials, UEFA officials and foreign media arriving in England would have to either take tests or quarantine in a hotel and take tests, depending on which country they are flying in from, and that clearly will not appeal to Europe’s governing body.
Plan C – Stage it somewhere else in Europe, for example, Lisbon
Lisbon successfully staged last year’s final — having been moved from Istanbul — and since Portugal is on the UK’s ‘green list’, it means open travel between the countries.