May 6, 2020 / 11:36 AM / 25 days ago

Turkey to host Champions League final in August, resume leagues on June 12

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey plans to host the Champions League final in late August, the head of its football federation said on Wednesday, and will resume domestic soccer leagues without fans on June 12 after a three-month suspension caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Soccer Football - Super Lig - Galatasaray v Besiktas - Turk Telekom Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey - March 15, 2020 General view before the match as the match will be played behind closed doors as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Two months ago European soccer’s governing body UEFA had indefinitely postponed the Champions League showpiece, which had been scheduled to be played in Istanbul on May 30.

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chairman Nihat Ozdemir said Europe’s elite club final was being planned for the end of August, but that details on the format and timing would be finalised after talks with health officials and UEFA.

“God willing, we will complete our own leagues at the end of July. We will hand over our cups on the pitch and then we will cap the season off by hosting the UEFA Champions League final in August,” Ozdemir told a televised news conference.

He said Turkish soccer leagues, including the top tier Super Lig, would resume from June 12 without spectators and finish on July 26. The Super Lig schedule will involve 7 weekend games and 1 weekday match, he said.

Ozdemir added that teams will play matches in their own cities and stadiums, despite concerns this may risk a renewed surge of coronavirus cases in some areas.

Istanbul, the epicentre of the outbreak in Turkey, hosts the three biggest Turkish clubs and Basaksehir.

Earlier this week, Turkey’s top soccer clubs resumed limited training sessions in accordance with measures set out by the TFF last week. Fenerbahce, Besiktas, and reigning champions Galatasaray all held sessions in small groups.

Trabzonspor, who were league leaders when matches were suspended, also returned to the pitch this week. Shares of all four clubs rose after the decision to resume the league.

Almost two months after reporting its first case, Turkey has said the outbreak has reached a plateau. On Monday, it began to ease some measures to restart the economy, as the daily number of deaths and new cases continued a downward trajectory.

Turkey has reported 3,520 deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak begun on March 11. It has nearly 130,000 confirmed cases, the highest total outside Western Europe, the United States, and Russia.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ken Ferris

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