Erdogan decries 'political decision' to drop Champions League final and Istanbul Grand Prix

Erdogan decries 'political decision' to drop Champions League final and Istanbul Grand Prix
While Turkey's president claimed the decisions were political, the sport's respective governing bodies said the move was related to Covid-19 restrictions.
2 min read
20 May, 2021
UEFA has cancelled the Champions League final in Istanbul twice [Getty]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed a decision to move the Champions League final and a Formula 1 race from Turkey, branding the decision as “political”.

The Turkish leader made the announcement on Wednesday during a meeting with Turkish youth at the presidential complex in Ankara

“First of all, for me a political decision was taken, whether on the issue of the Champions League or Formula 1,” he said. 

Erdogan claimed the decision to hold the Champions League final in Turkey was made “two years ago”, but was then reversed when two English teams qualified for the face-off. 

In their decision to move the football final from the Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul, UEFA cited UK Covid-19 restrictions as the deciding factor.

“Following the UK government’s decision to place Turkey on its red list of Covid-19 travel destinations, staging the final there would have meant none of the clubs’ domestic fans would be able to travel to the game,” said the footballing body.

The final between Manchester City and Chelsea will now take place on Saturday at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto, Portugal.

According to UEFA, Turkey will hold the final in 2023, coinciding with the country’s centenary. 

The decision follows a similar move that has shifted the Formula 1 race from Istanbul, which had initially joined the calendar when the Canadian Grand Prix was cancelled due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions. 

“We organised a really successful race last year and all the participants in F1 lauded the efforts we put into it. Then they said we would be included on the calendar but then suddenly they moved the race to someplace else,” lamented Erdogan. 

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Mimicking their footballing counterparts, the organising body for Formula 1 also cited coronavirus in their reasoning. 

“We were all looking forward to racing in Turkey but the travel restrictions in place have meant we are not able to be there in June,” said F1 president Stefano Domenicali.

The planned Turkish Grand Prix will now be replaced by a second race in Austria. 

Turkey was held a permanent spot on the F1 calendar, holding races from 2005 to 2011.