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Sources: UK gov. must relax rules for UCL final

The United Kingdom’s government must relax its strict COVID-19 regulations to enable next month’s Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City to be moved from Istanbul, Turkey, to England, sources have told ESPN.

Issues surrounding limits on spectators inside stadiums and quarantine regulations for visitors to the UK are stumbling blocks to the game being moved to England unless the government is prepared to make exceptions to allow the Champions League final to be played in the country.

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UEFA is in talks with the UK government and English Football Association to discuss the feasibility of switching the game from Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium following the UK’s decision to place Turkey on its travel red list on Friday — a move which requires arrivals into the country from Turkey, including players from both teams, having to quarantine at an airport hotel for 10 days.

Sources have told ESPN that discussions are also ongoing with the Turkish government and Turkish Football Federation about the status of the May 29 final, which had been re-scheduled for this season having been initially slated to host the 2020 final before the game was moved to Lisbon, Portugal, as a consequence of the pandemic.

Having spent in excess of £20 million on improvements to the Ataturk Stadium, which last hosted the Champions League final in 2005, the Turkish authorities are expected to pursue compensation should the fixture be taken away from Istanbul once again.

But with Turkey in a national lockdown until at least May 17, UEFA is now attempting to swiftly resolve the situation in order to ensure clarity for both clubs and their supporters.

Sources have told ESPN that the major hurdle to England stepping in as host is the UK government’s insistence that arrivals from countries not on its green list — Portugal, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel and the Faroe Islands are the only European nations on the list — must quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

With UEFA needing to accredit international rights holders from around the world for the Champions League final, as well as ensure its own staff are able to work at the game, the UK government will be expected to make exemptions for those broadcasters and staff who travel to the game from countries not on the UK red list.

As UEFA are planning for Istanbul to host a socially-distant crowd of 25,000 at the final, the UK government would also be asked to enable a similar attendance figure at a time when regulations stipulate a limit of 10,000 fans.

Sources have told ESPN that the attendance limit could be raised to 25,000 if it is classed as a test event, therefore clearing the way for the game to be played in England.

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