Sources: UEFA confident UCL final can host fans

UEFA are confident that fans will be able to attend the 2021 Champions League final in Istanbul, sources have told ESPN.

The Ataturk Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2005 final between Liverpool and AC Milan, is scheduled to stage this season’s showpiece fixture on May 29 after originally being selected to host the 2020 final before the coronavirus pandemic forced UEFA to play a mini-tournament from the quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon, Portugal last August.

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Although the round of 16 stage of the competition has been disrupted by teams being forced to play home games at neutral venues — such as Liverpool’s tie with RB Leipzig which saw both legs played in Budapest, and Manchester City‘s fixtures with Borussia Monchengladbach staged in Bucharest — sources have said that there is optimism that the latter stages of the Champions League will be able to go ahead on a home and away basis, subject to individual government COVID protocols.

And with vaccination programmes gathering pace throughout Europe, UEFA is hopeful of being able to allow a reduced number of spectators into the stadium for the final.

Supporters have been largely absent from Champions League games since the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe in March 2020, with only a small number of clubs playing in front of fans in the group stages of this season’s competition.

Last season’s final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain was played behind closed doors at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. Sources told ESPN it is unlikely that fans will be able to attend games in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but the tentative plans for European travel to reopen in mid-May have raised the prospects of Istanbul welcoming fans of competing clubs for the final.