WAR IN EUROPE
Uefa shifts Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris over heightened conflict concerns
Due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the 2022 final will be moved to France.
Uefa has moved this year’s Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European soccer’s governing body said in a statement on Friday.
Uefa also said the home games of Ukrainian and Russian club and national teams competing in Uefa competitions would be played at neutral venues “until further notice”.
The governing body thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his “personal support and commitment” in taking on the final.
It added that it would “fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement”.
The Champions League final was set to be staged at Zenit St Petersburg’s stadium on May 28 with thousands of supporters from across the continent expected to attend the showcase match in European club soccer.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call: “It’s a shame that such a decision has been made. St Petersburg could have provided all favourable conditions to hold this festival of soccer.”
UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who is responsible for sport, backed the Uefa decision.
“I welcome Uefa’s decisive action to strip St Petersburg of staging this year’s Champions League final.
“Russia must not be allowed to exploit sporting and cultural events on the world stage to legitimise its unprovoked, premeditated and needless attack against a sovereign democratic state.”
The St Petersburg stadium is known as the Gazprom Stadium following a sponsorship deal with Russia’s state energy company, which also sponsors the Champions League and Uefa’s Euro 2024 national team competition.
The move to strip St Petersburg of the final follows calls from a group of European lawmakers who asked Uefa on Thursday to change the venue and stop considering Russian cities for major international soccer competitions.
The lawmakers also asked Uefa to end Gazprom’s sponsorship of the continent’s elite club competition. Friday’s Uefa statement made no mention of Gazprom, however.
The president of the Russian Football Union (RFU) Alexander Dyukov, who also serves on the Uefa executive and is CEO of Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Neft, criticised the Uefa move.
“We believe that the decision to move the venue of the Champions League final was dictated by political reasons. The RFU has always adhered to the principle of “sport is out of politics”, and thus cannot support this decision,” he said in a statement on the RFU’s website.
“The RFU also does not support the decision to transfer any matches involving Russian teams to neutral territory as violating the sports principle and infringing on the interests of players, coaches and fans,” he added.
The 2023 Champions League final is set to be contested in Istanbul with Wembley in London hosting the following year and Munich’s Allianz Arena the venue for the final in 2025.
Formula One on Friday said it will not race in Russia this season, saying it was “impossible” to do so after the country launched an invasion on neighbouring Ukraine.
The race was scheduled for 25 September at Sochi’s Olympic Park.
“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation,” the sport said in a statement.
“On Thursday evening, Formula One, the FIA and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is… that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.” Reuters/DM
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