EXCLUSIVE: Champions League final WON’T be moved to Wembley to appease potential finalists Chelsea and Manchester City, but UEFA are reviewing Istanbul as a host after Turkey entered a full lockdown to stop Covid surge
- Turkey has announced it will go into lockdown on Thursday due to surge in Covid
- President Tayyip Erdogan imposed restrictions until May 17 – with the Champions League final due to take place at the Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul, on May 29
- UEFA is seeking reports from Turkey following the announcement yesterday
UEFA is urgently seeking reports from Turkey after the country went into lockdown in a bid to stem a surge in coronavirus cases just five weeks before the Champions League final is due to be played there.
Turkish residents will be required to stay mostly at home under a nationwide ‘full lockdown’ starting on Thursday and lasting until May 17, President Tayyip Erdogan has announced.
The Champions League final is due to take place at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on May 29. At least 9,000 fans were expected to attend, with supporters from both clubs due to be present in the 80,000-seat arena.
Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain in last year’s Champions League final but with no fans
The Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul is due to host the Champions League final this year
However, yet again the European football governing body’s plans have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and officials are now scrambling to assess the situation in Turkey.
The first legs of the semi finals of the competition take place this week, with Chelsea taking on Real Madrid and Manchester City playing Paris Saint-Germain.
UEFA has ruled out moving the game to Wembley for the benefit of the finalists, should Manchester City and Chelsea navigate their semi-finals and meet in the final.
It is up to the Turkish authorities to decide if fans will be allowed to attend the showpiece in Istanbul next month.
In March, Sportsmail revealed UEFA was planning for fans of both clubs to attend the final by selling smart tickets to supporters on their mobile phones.
The eight quarter-finalists were told that at least 9,000 fans should be able to attend, with the ticket allocation split between the clubs.
No final decisions regarding capacity and international visitors had been taken, but UEFA were said to be optimistic. However, in April, Europe has been gripped by a third wave of coronavius cases, fuelled by an infectious variant and slow roll out of vaccination programmes.
Even if no supporters can attend the final, UEFA may allow the game to go ahead in Istanbul without fans. Last year’s final, in which Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 was also played in front of empty stands at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal.
UEFA was said to be confident that fans would attend the Champions League final this year
It remains to be seen if this year’s final could move on health grounds and no doubt the Turkish authorities will hope the action they are taking now will bring the infection rate under control.
The lockdown comes after Turkey recorded 37,312 new covid infections and 353 deaths in 24 hours.
While these figures are down on recent data, Turkey still has the world’s fourth highest number of cases and is ranked worst on a per-capita basis among major nations, according to Reuters.
Announcing the new measures after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said all intercity travel would require official approval, all schools would shut and lessons moved online, and a strict capacity limit would be imposed for users of public transport.
Last year’s final was due to be played at the Ataturk Stadium too, but it was moved to Lisbon as part of a ‘final-eight tournament’, which took place in August, consisting of single-match knockout ties played in two stadiums across the city.