Champions League: Why is Portugal hosting the final rather than Wembley?

Tonight’s Champions League final is back in Portugal at FC Porto’s Estadio do Dragao.

Manchester City, in their first Champions League final, battle Chelsea FC, who play their third – having experienced one defeat (to Manchester United in 2008) and one victory (against Bayern Munich in 2012) before.

The event is on despite a logistical nightmare with the ongoing Covid pandemic seeing hosting duties from original host Istanbul taken away.

It promises to be a fascinating contest with Pep Guardiola looking to finally clinch another European crown 10 years after his last one of two titles with Barcelona, having endured plenty of heartache with Bayern Munich and City over the last decade.

Here’s how we arrived at this point with the conclusion of this season’s Uefa Champions League set to take place in Porto.

Why was the final taken away from Istanbul?

Turkey was added to the United Kingdom’s “red list” of countries on 7 May due to severe coronavirus outbreaks, which almost took the decision out of Uefa’s hands, given the inability to host fans for the spectacle involving two Premier League clubs.

With the coronavirus raging in Istanbul and the city sent into lockdown, Turkey has now lost the Champions League final for two consecutive seasons.

Last year the Covid pandemic sent the knock-out stages from the quarter-finals onwards to Lisbon, with Sporting’s Estadio Jose Alvalade and Benfica’s Estadio da Luz picking up hosting duties.

Why didn’t Uefa award Wembley the final?

Upon the realisation that Istanbul could no longer host this year’s final, speculation spread about Wembley Stadium in London stepping in, given both sides involved are English.

Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin maintained throughout the process that fans would be able to attend the game, with 6,000 tickets eventually granted for each club for tonight’s game.

“Fans have had to suffer more than twelve months without the ability to see their teams live and reaching a Champions League final is the pinnacle of club football,” Ceferin said. “To deprive those supporters of the chance to see the match in person was not an option and I am delighted that this compromise has been found.”

But despite the convenience of sending the match to London, discussions with the UK government were quickly aborted, despite Boris Johnson stating: “it would be brilliant to host the game here if we can”.

Uefa soon realised that they would be unable to secure the quarantine exemptions they needed for media, sponsors and guests to be able to fly into the UK capital.

Portugal, and specifically Porto, emerged as the host due to the country placed on England’s “green list” of 12 low-risk territories.

Ceferin on sending Champions League final to Porto over Wembley

“We accept that the decision of the British government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams.

“The difficulties of moving the final are great and the FA and the authorities made every effort to try to stage the match in England and I would like to thank them for their work in trying to make it happen.”

“I hope the final will be a symbol of hope at the re-emergence of Europe from a difficult period and that the fans who travel to the game will once again be able to lend their voices to showcase this final as the best in club football.”

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