LONDON: This season’s Champions League final will not be held in Istanbul as planned due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Quoting a person with knowledge of the matter, the report said organizer and European football’s governing body UEFA is considering other venues for the final in a bid to complete the tournament, which was stopped by the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was stopped in March halfway through the Round of 16 stage due to precautionary measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the NYT’s source, UEFA is due to hold further talks with Turkish officials about finalizing the announcement. Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium was due to host the final on May 30.
UEFA is also still in talks about finishing its secondary competition — the Europa League — which should have seen its final hosted in Gdansk in Poland.
August is being pencilled as the month in which both the Champions League and Europa League will be completed, in time for national leagues to start their 2020/2021 seasons in September.
A final decision will be announced after a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee on June 17, according to the source who did not speak publicly due to talks still taking place.
Leagues that have restarted, such as Germany’s Bundesliga, and leagues already announced to restart are adopting strict hygiene measures and playing in empty stadiums o make sure games are played as safely as possible, which is likely to be the approach taken by UEFA in its competitions.
With many European countries limiting travel and imposing strict quarantine measures on arrival for visitors, it is likely that most of the remaining games will take place in the place picked to host the final.
According to Spanish media reports, UEFA is planning to host this year’s Champions League final in Lisbon. There are a small number of other candidates, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.
“A working group has been set up with the participation of representatives from the leagues and clubs to examine calendar solutions and format options that would allow for the completion of the current season,” said a UEFA spokesman. “A variety of options is being looked at and no decisions have been made at this stage.”
UEFA, which pays much of its TV revenues to clubs in prize money, could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if the competition is not completed.