UEFA has announced that the all-English Champions League final will be held in Porto, with 12,000 Chelsea and Manchester City supporters in attendance.
Since England placed stricter pandemic travel restrictions on Turkey, the May 29 showpiece was moved to the 50,000-capacity Estadio do Dragao, which would have prohibited fans from flying in.
In a tweet, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said, “Fans have been without the chance to watch their teams live for more than a year, and winning a Champions League final is the pinnacle of club football.”
“It was not a choice to deny those fans the opportunity to see the match in person, and I am pleased that this agreement has been reached,” he said.
Turkish officials, according to the UEFA president, have been “reliable allies” of the organization and have organized several activities “with great success” in previous years.
Pep Guardiola, City’s coach, said he would have opted for midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, whose grandfather is from Balikesir, south of Istanbul, to play in Turkey.
“I have had the privilege of visiting Istanbul, but I have never had the chance to return there since my time as a football player in Barcelona, not even in the Champions League,” he said at a press conference.
“I had to go there for Ilkay Gundogan. Unfortunately, UEFA has chosen Portugal, but that is not a problem.”
Although the final capacity for the match has yet to be determined, the Portuguese government has stated that any traveling fans will be forced to sit in a “bubble” and fly back directly after the match.
Last season’s Champions League matches were also held in Portugal, in the city of Lisbon, from the quarter-finals onwards.
The original plan had been to use London’s Wembley Stadium, but negotiations with the British government failed on Monday about the need to obtain quarantine exemptions for the UEFA-mandated visitors and broadcasters.
According to UEFA, coronavirus regulations in the United Kingdom found it impossible to hold the match in London.
“UEFA considered taking the match to England, but despite extensive attempts on the part of the Football Association and the authorities, the required exemptions from UK quarantine agreements could not be obtained,” it added.
People of the United Kingdom returning from countries on the red list must stay in a government-approved hotel for ten days.
The Portuguese government announced on Thursday that English fans watching the match in Porto would have to fly in on the day of the match and remain in a “bubble” before heading out straight after the game.
“Those who attend the Champions League final will arrive and depart on the same day, with a test conducted in a bubble environment on charter flights.
“It will be two fan areas, and they will be transported from there to the stadium, and then from the stadium to the airport in less than 24 hours,” she said.