UEFA likely to move Champions League final from Istanbul

An aerial view shows Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Turkey's Istanbul, which had been selected to host the 2020 Champions League final. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 29 May 2020

UEFA likely to move Champions League final from Istanbul

  • The tournament was stopped by the COVID-19 outbreak
  • UEFA is due to hold further talks with Turkish officials about finalizing the announcement

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.


Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 10 August 2020

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.