The Champions League match between Bundesliga club RB Leipzig and Premier League champions Liverpool on Feb. 16 will not be played at Leipzig’s stadium, the German Ministry of the Interior confirmed on Thursday.
Last Saturday, flights from the U.K. and other high-risk countries were banned by the German government to stop the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus.
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While RB Leipzig pushed for an exception, the German Ministry of the Interior confirmed to German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Wednesday that there will be “no special rules for professional sports.”
The government agency added they had informed RB Leipzig on Wednesday that their case did not fall under the handful of exceptions outlined in the government order.
Leipzig now have until Monday to propose an alternative venue — which could be in a neutral country — to UEFA.
“The Corona Protection Order agreed by the federal government last Friday envisions only a few exceptions and no special arrangement for professional athletes,” the ministry said in an emailed statement. “The federal police has told the RB Leipzig club today that the circumstances of the given case do not meet the requirements for an exemption.”
The Bundesliga club also would be able to travel to Anfield and back for the first leg, as German passport holders and residents are allowed to travel to Germany, where they’d be tested straight away.
Under the COVID-19-related regulations for the Champions League released by the European football’s governing body earlier this week, the home side are responsible for the organisation of a neutral venue.
Leipzig could also try to convince Liverpool to swap the games, but, according to German outlet Bild, the Premier League side are not willing to do so.
The two legs of the Champions League round of 16 must be completed by April 2. If Leipzig fail to propose a suitable venue, UEFA could decide to rule the match 3-0 in Liverpool’s favour.
The German club are confident they will be able to find a neutral venue.
“We are in talks and we are working on a solution. We will be playing somewhere,” Leipzig executive Oliver Mintzlaff told the news agency SID late on Thursday.
In the Europa League, Arsenal’s home and away games against Benfica may be affected by British restrictions on travel to and from Portugal.