Russia waives some visas for UCL final

May 5, 2008

MOSCOW, May 5 (Reuters) - Russia has waived entry visa requirements for fans with a valid ticket for the May 21 Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea, match organiser Alexei Sorokin told Reuters on Monday.

European football's ruling body UEFA confirmed the visa requirements would be dropped.

'All ticket holders attending the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow on May 21 will be able to use their match ticket as a visa entry to the Russian Federation for a 72-hour period,' UEFA said on its website.

However, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said officials were still working on arrangements for visa-free entry and details had not been finalised. The offer would apply only to certain categories of fans, he said.

'A fan can come without a visa and...enter Russia with a valid ticket,' said Sorokin, the Russian official coordinating preparations for the match. 'It is an unprecedented decision by the Russian government.'

Sorokin said visa-free entry would be valid only for a stay of not more than 72 hours.

The ministry spokesman said it was possible the visa-free arrangement would apply only to those fans who arrived in Russia on the day of the match and left immediately afterwards, without an overnight stay.

'For now the details are not clear but an arrangement is being worked on right now under which part of the fans, based on their tickets, passports and a completed immigration form, can travel to the match,' the spokesman told Reuters.

Tens of thousands of British fans are expected to travel to the match with the Premier League rivals facing each other in the final at Moscow's Soviet-era Luzhniki Stadium.

The two English clubs have been allocated 21,000 tickets each.

Moscow has been planning to host the match for two years. Special measures have already been announced by the game's organisers, with 700 buses scheduled to transport fans from the city's three airports to and from the stadium.

There have been concerns that the city does not have enough hotel rooms to accommodate all the fans, though organisers say there will be enough beds to meet demand.

Arrangements were complicated by a diplomatic row between Moscow and London over the 2006 murder in London of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko. The dispute has affected the issuing of some types of entry visa between the countries.

The foreign ministry spokesman said a formal announcement on visa-free travel for some fans travelling to the match was likely to be made in the next few days.

'By May 14, all the details will be known and in the near future information about this will be passed to the Russian consulate in London, which will pass on the information to the English fans' organisations,' he said.