PARIS: UEFA announced Thursday that the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea has been moved from Istanbul to Porto.
The match on May 29 has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao to allow English spectators to attend. The UK government placed Turkey on a coronavirus travel red list last week.
Earlier, European football’s governing body announced up to 6,000 supporters from each club will be able to attend.
“We accept that the decision of the British Government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement.
“After the year that fans have endured, it is not right that they don’t have the chance to watch their teams in the biggest game of the season.”
UK citizens returning from red list countries are required to quarantine at a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
Earlier this week, newspaper reports claimed the match would be played at Wembley Stadium.
Chelsea and Man City supporters groups had requested the game be moved to England.
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said he would have welcomed the fixture being played in London.
“The difficulties of moving the final are great and the FA and the authorities made every effort to try to stage the match in England and I would like to thank them for their work in trying to make it happen,” Ceferin said.
UEFA said coronavirus rules in the UK made it difficult to hold the fixture in the English capital.
“UEFA discussed moving the match to England but, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of the Football Association and the authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements,” it said.
City coach Pep Guardiola said he would have preferred Turkey as the venue for midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, whose grandfather comes from Balikesir, south of Istanbul.
“I have had the pleasure to go to Istanbul but since my period as a football player in Barcelona, I never had the opportunity to go there again, not even in the Champions League,” he said at a press conference.
“For Ilkay Gundogan I wanted to go there. Unfortunately, UEFA decided to go to Portugal, but there’s no problem there.”
The final capacity for the match is still to be decided.
Last season’s Champions League matches from the quarterfinals onwards were also held in Portugal, but in Lisbon.
“Once again we have turned to our friends in Portugal to help both UEFA and the Champions League and I am, as always, very grateful to the FPF (Portuguese Football Association) and the Portuguese government for agreeing to stage the match at such short notice,” Ceferin said.
The last round of matches in the country’s top-flight Primeira Liga will see spectators return to stadia on May 19, with a limited number of people permitted, the league said Wednesday. – AFP