UEFA officials and the British government will discuss shifting the Manchester City-Chelsea game from Istanbul to Wembley to sidestep coronavirus travel restrictions.


By Tariq Panja

European soccer’s governing body will hold talks with the British government on Monday about moving this month’s Champions League final to London because travel restrictions related to the coronavirus have made it almost impossible for domestic fans of the finalists — the Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea — to attend the match at its scheduled site in Istanbul.

The final, currently set for Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium on May 29, is the biggest day on the European club soccer calendar and like the Super Bowl and the Wimbledon final one of the tent-pole events in global sports every year.

Questions about where to hold the match have been growing since Turkey announced a lockdown late last month. They intensified on Friday, days after City and Chelsea clinched their places in the final, when the British government announced that Turkey was among the countries to which Britons should avoid all but essential travel.

Officials from England’s Football Association already have opened talks with Europe’s governing body, UEFA, about moving the game, and they will be present at Monday’s meeting, when UEFA will outline its requirements for relocation. A decision most likely will be announced within 48 hours.

If an agreement cannot be reached to move the final to London, a backup choice will be considered, most likely Porto, Portugal.

UEFA’s demands are likely to present a dilemma for the British government, which will have to balance the popular appeal of bringing a major sporting event featuring two English teams to the country against the ongoing public health need to control the virus.

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