Football

Wembley unlikely to host Champions League final as UEFA consider options

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London’s Wembley Stadium is unlikely to be considered as a potential venue for this season’s Champions League final in the event of the fixture being moved from the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, sources have told ESPN.

UEFA confirmed on Tuesday that they are « constantly and closely monitoring » the political situation involving Russia and the escalating tensions between the country and western nations due to the prospect of a Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

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Russia was hit by a series of sanctions imposed by the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday, with UK prime minister Boris Johnson one of several British politicians to publicly voice concerns over Saint Petersburg being allowed to host the Champions League final on May 28.

Saint Petersburg, the home of Russian oil company Gazprom which is a significant UEFA sponsor, had been due to host the 2021 Champions League final, but the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced UEFA to move its showpiece fixture to Porto instead.

Sources have told ESPN that, while it is highly likely that the Champions League final will be moved from Saint Petersburg if tensions escalate or remain unresolved, the organization will work closely with the EU and adhere to any sanctions which may be imposed on Russia.

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But with more than three months to go before the Champions League final is due to take place, UEFA are planning to carefully assess alternative host venues before making a decision on where the game will be played.

Sources have said, however, that UEFA are not planning to use Wembley, which last hosted the final in 2013, for a number of reasons. Primarily, the stadium has already been booked by the EFL to stage the promotion playoffs on the same weekend, but the ground has already been allocated the 2024 Champions League final.

And the violent disorder which marred the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy last July, when ticketless fans broke through barriers to gain entry to the stadium, has done little to persuade UEFA that Wembley should be used for another major event less than 12 months later .

Alternative venues in London, including the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and West Ham’s London Stadium, could be considered by UEFA, but sources have told ESPN that the key criteria for any substitute venue center on it being a major European city with the stadium, transport links, infrastructure and accommodation to cater for around 100,000 visiting supporters.

As such, Rome, Munich, Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona are all options likely to be considered, sources have said.

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