Portugal has been described as ‘increasingly likely’ to step in and host the Champions League final for the second year running as a result of ‘failed’ talks so far between UEFA and the FA to move the showdown between Chelsea and Manchester City to London.
Istanbul was the intended host city for the 2021 final but, having already lost the 2020 final as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, current UK travel restrictions that put Turkey on the ‘red list’ would make it impossible for fans to attend as leisure travel to those countries is banned.
With plans having been made for up to 25,000 fans to attend in Istanbul, London and Wembley Stadium had been put forward as an alternative that would negate international travel for supporters and both clubs. But talks to iron out key details appear to have proven difficult.
The Times reports that the UK government has offered Wembley as an alternative venue to UEFA. But a UEFA request that its staff, as well as media, sponsors and VIPs be granted exemption to quarantine laws that still exist on arrival in the country has not been met.
It is said that talks are ongoing, but where Wembley had been considered the favourite to replace the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, the chances of it actually happening are now ‘in the balance’.
Sky Sports report that UEFA is still ‘torn’ about moving the final from Istanbul to Wembley, but is considering Portugal as a ‘feasible third option’. A final in Istanbul could yet be played in 2023 instead, which would actually fall in the year of the Turkey’s 100th anniversary as a republic.
Lisbon stepped in to host a Champions League mini-tournament last season from the quarter-final stage onwards. This time, Porto would be the replacement host city should Portugal be chosen.
Portugal is one of the handful of countries on the UK’s ‘green list’, enabling international travel for Chelsea and Manchester City fans to attend. That means travel back to the UK from Portugal does not require an enforced period of quarantine on arrival.
Porto’s Estadio do Dragao was opened in 2003 in anticipation of hosting games at Euro 2004. It has also hosted a number of Portugal national team matches over the years and was the stadium used for the inaugural UEFA Nations League final in 2019.