The 2022/2023 Champions League final will be in Istanbul. However, there is fear that this scenario will have to be modified for the fourth consecutive year.
LatinAmerican Post | Javier Aldana
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Leer en español: Final de Champions 2023: nuevamente podría cambiar de sede
Istanbul is remembered as the site of one of the most spectacular UEFA Champions League finals: the 2005 match between Milan and Liverpool, known as "the Miracle of Istanbul". Now, the popular Turkish city is preparing to once again host the defining match of Europe's top club competition. However, Istanbul could lose the venue for the final for the third time in four years. Why has the venue changed in recent years, and why is it in danger again in 2023?
Istanbul and the Historical Events that Kept it Away from the Champions League
The Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul was designated as the venue for the Champions League final in the 2019/2020 season. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced UEFA not only to suspend the competition, but also to change the venue for the final, designating the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal. This, because a health bubble was installed in the Portuguese city, allowing the rest of the competition to be played there without risk of contagion.
In the 2020/2021 season, UEFA decided to award the Champions League final again to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul to compensate for the contingency of the previous season. However, the finalists were Manchester City and Chelsea from England, so the strong sanitary measures in the United Kingdom and the increase in COVID-19 cases in Turkey forced the final to be moved to Portugal again, but this time to the Stadium do Dragão of Porto.
The Champions League final for the 2021/2022 season was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement of venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the final finally corresponded to the Gazprom Arena stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Any way, the venue was changed once again due to the sanctions against Russia for the military invasion of Ukraine. Finally, the final was played at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France.
Consequently, the final of the 2022/2023 season was stipulated to be played at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, the 2024 final at London's Wembley Stadium and the 2025 final at the Allianz Arena in Munich. However, the Istanbul final is in danger again due to the electoral process in Turkey on May 14, which could unleash serious social unrest. For its part, UEFA is preparing contingency plans, but is closely watching the social and political situation in Turkey until June 10, when the final should be played.
USA Emerges as a Candidate for Future Finals
The instability in the designation of venues for the Champions League final and the marketing of the event made new options be considered. For this reason, the president of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin, opened the possibility of playing decisive matches in the United States. “The Champions League in Los Angeles, New York or maybe Atlanta? It's possible. We started talking about it, but then the World Cup came, in 2024 it's the Euro Cup, this year the final is in Istanbul, in 2024 in London and in 2025 in Munich. And after that, we'll see. It is possible, it is possible”, said the leader in an interview with the North American media Men in Blazers.
Bringing the UEFA Champions League final to the United States would mean having its 300 million viewers in a territory where the most watched sporting event is the Super Bowl, with approximately 208 million people. Consequently, the media impact and the adherence of spectators could mean an important boost for the Champions League and an important benefit for the United States as a sports arena.
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On the other hand, UEFA will invoice from 2024 around 3,700 million euros per season, according to El Confidencial. There, it is estimated that television rights contribute more than 3,120 million euros, sponsorships more than 541 million euros, attendance at stadiums more than 34 million euros and VIP areas more than 31 million euros. Finally, 79% of all the money is distributed to the participating clubs, UEFA keeps 5.5% and the rest goes to organizing and carrying out the competitions.
This immense generation of money means that bringing the competition to the United States would further boost profits for UEFA and its clubs. In addition, the North American country would also have significant earnings from sponsorships, rights and trade activation. However, Ceferin warns that the bases of the agreement must still be well established because the commercialization of different aspects is different in Europe, compared to the United States. For now, the Champions League final of the 2025/2026 season could be in uncharted but highly lucrative territory.