Plans to switch the 2021 Champions League final to Wembley Stadium have run into trouble after talks between UEFA and the UK government foundered on quarantine rules for VIP guests.
According to dailymail.co.uk, the Government was asked to waive the requirement to quarantine on arrival in the UK for around 2,000 UEFA staff and broadcasters.
The match, between Chelsea and Manchester City, was scheduled to be played at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey on May 29.
However, that arrangement was thrown into doubt after the UK government placed Turkey on the travel ‘red list’ and told fans they should not go.
Turkey has been in the grip of a devastating second wave of coronavirus infection and is currently in ‘full lockdown’.
UEFA entered into talks with the government and FA today about moving the fixture, but The Times report that as a result of the impasse on VIP guests, Portugal, specifically Lisbon, is now seen as ‘increasingly likely’ to host the event for a second successive season.
Sportsmail understands UEFA has agreed the Champions League final should move from Istanbul to the UK, but for that to happen the British government would have to create exemptions from quarantine rules to facilitate more than 2,000 VIPs and staff to attend the game.
‘If the game does not come to England now, it will be because the British government could not do what it needed to do,’ said a source with knowledge of the negotiations.
‘UEFA wants to move the game, but it is on the British government to make the effort.’
One solution would involve creating bubbles for visiting dignitaries and staff, but there is also some disquiet over the fairness of allowing VIPs to escape the rules the rest of the population must adhere too.
This is the political conundrum the government has been facing today.
With the UK government and UEFA struggling to reach an agreement over exemptions for VIP guests, Portugal has reportedly become a more attractive option.
Portugal has been placed on the UK’s ‘green list’, which is expected to come into force from May 17. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give a statement this evening.
If the game was staged in Portugal, Chelsea and City fans would be free to travel to and from the match, which is on May 29, without significant restrictions.
There would be no need to isolate on their return, although they would required to take a coronavirus test.
Preventing City and Chelsea fans travelling 2,000 miles to a Covid hotspot area in Turkey was hailed as a ‘victory for common sense’, said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of Norwich.
‘It is not just the risk to us from fans bringing something back. At the moment the Indian variant is not in Turkey but people from the UK could take it to Turkey and pose a risk to them. This is a victory for common sense.’
However, as it has emerged that significant VIP quarantine exemptions would be required to bring the match to England there has been concern about the message it would send to the rest of the population bound by the rules this summer..
‘The risk [of VIPs and staff] coming here can be managed,’ said Professor Keith Neal, an expert in public health at the University of Nottingham.
‘But it would take an awful lot of managing. But why should they breach the criteria, particularly if they are coming from a red list country.’