Champions League Final to Be Moved From Turkey

Club soccer’s biggest event will be held at a new venue amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit…Umit Bektas/Reuters

The Champions League final, one of sport’s most-watched annual events, will not be held at its planned site, Istanbul, amid the ongoing crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

European soccer’s governing body UEFA, the event’s organizer, is now considering a number of alternative venues as it plans to complete the competition, which was part way through its round of 16 stage when — like most other sporting events — it paused indefinitely.

Now with national leagues starting to emerge to complete their seasons, UEFA is concluding talks on how to finish the Champions League and its secondary Europa League in August. The Europa League final had been set to be held in Gdansk, Poland. A decision will be made after a meeting of the executive committee on June 17, said the person, who declined to speak publicly because talks on the alternative sites are ongoing.

UEFA will hold further talks with Turkish officials next week, to finalize an agreement to move the event. Istanbul could be picked to host the final at a later date.

Leagues that have restarted, or are planning to restart, are adopting severe hygiene protocols to ensure games can be played again safely while the virus continues to be a danger. UEFA is certain to adopt similar strategies, meaning that the games are being planned to take place in empty stadiums and that the players involved will face regular tests. With European travel limited, and ongoing quarantine laws in some countries, it is also likely that most of the remaining games will take place in the place picked to host the final.

The Spanish news media reported that UEFA was planning to host this year’s Champions League final, an event that draws more viewers globally than the Super Bowl, 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.”

  • Updated May 28, 2020

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What’s certain is the competition is unlikely to not look like anything that has gone before, with calendar constraints necessitating it be completed in as short a time possible to allow players to rest before starting next season in September. The original date for the final at Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul was May 30.

“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’s television contract for the Champions League is one of the richest in sports, with most of that income being paid out in prize money to teams participating in its tournaments. Last season it paid nearly 2 billion euros to participating teams.

Should it not be able to complete the tournament, UEFA faces paying a ruinous rebate worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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