The UEFA Champions League final is set to be moved from its planned venue of the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to reports.
The UEFA showpiece – which typically attracts viewing figures in the hundreds of millions – is due to be played at the end of August, once the competition itself resumes earlier that month.
However, the venue for the final will no longer be Istanbul, according to a report in The New York Times citing a source with inside knowledge of the matter.
Instead, a UEFA group is looking at alternative options with venues in Germany – where top-level football has already resumed – and Lisbon in Portugal reportedly being considered.
A formal decision is set to be made after a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee on June 17, and the fate of the Europa League – UEFA’s secondary club competition and the final of which is due to be held in Gdansk, Poland – will similarly be decided then.
The plan to shift the Champions League from Istanbul is reportedly based on concerns that the Turkish city would not make a return on its investment if fans are unable to travel.
A UEFA spokesperson said no final decision had yet been made on the move.
“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,” they said.
“A variety of options are being looked at and no decisions have been made at this stage.”
The Champions League – as with football across Europe – was suspended at the last 16 stage in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged Europe.
The originally planned date for the final was May 30, although organizers are now waiting for domestic leagues to resume and complete their own seasons before squeezing the remaining Champions League rounds into August, in an as-yet undecided format.
Should the final be shifted from Turkey, the country will reportedly be given the option to host again in the coming years.
The final was due to return to the city on the Bosporus for the first time since Liverpool’s memorable comeback win against AC Milan in 2005, dubbed ‘The Miracle of Istanbul’ by the English team’s fans.
Reigning champions Liverpool would not have been returning this season however, having been knocked out by Atletico Madrid in what was one of the final matches to be played before the Covid-19 pandemic brought football to a halt.