UEFA was faced with British government demands to cancel Russia’s hosting of the Champions League final. This was due to concerns that it would legitimize an “illegal invasion of Ukraine”. European football’s governing body said Tuesday that it would reconsider St. Petersburg hosting the showpiece match.
The largest game in the European season will be May 28 at Gazprom Arena. It is named after Gazprom, the state-owned energy company that sponsored the men’s competition over a decade.
Gazprom is also involved in decision-making at UEFA. Alexander Dyukov (chief executive of an oil subsidiary company) sits on UEFA’s ruling executive committee.
UEFA has recognized for the first times that Russia could stage the final following talks between the senior leadership regarding the crisis.
“UEFA is continuously and closely monitoring the situation,” stated the Champions League organizer in a statement. “Any decision would be taken in due course if required.”
Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, raised concerns about Russia’s use of sports to improve its status and urged President Vladimir Putin to not invade Ukraine. After having gathered an estimated 150,000 troops along three sides of Ukraine, he also urged him to refrain from waging war on it.
Johnson stated to the House of Commons that Johnson was going to end with “…a Russia that is more isolated and a Russia which has pariah statut, no chance of hosting football tournaments in Russia that invades sovereign states.”
Russia caused a stir by announcing Monday that it had recognized independence for eastern Ukraine. This included territory held by Ukrainian forces. The troops were then authorized and sent to the separatist areas.
Rainer Koch, a member of the UEFA executive board from Germany, stated that “it’s a very delicate position that can change hourly, and of course, we all have an eye to it,” to ARD.
England is the country with the most remaining teams in the Champions League. There are four of them in round 16.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, a Ukrainian player for Manchester City, posted a plea via Instagram asking for the protection of his country’s territorial sovereignty.
Gazprom advertisements flashed at Stamford Bridge as United States forward Christian Pulisic celebrated his victory for Chelsea against Lille in the last-16 game. Roman Abramovich is the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea. Johnson incorrectly stated that the government was threatening sanctions against him.
Nadine Dorries is Culture Secretary and holds the briefing on sports in Johnson’s cabinet. She said that she would talk to Johnson about “serious concerns” about Russia hosting the final with UEFA.
Dorries stated that “We won’t allow President Putin exploit international events to legitimize his illegal invasion in Ukraine.”
UEFA had to relocate the Champions League final from Turkey to Portugal in the two previous seasons due to the pandemic.
Alexey Sorokin (a FIFA council member) said that no talks had been held with UEFA about St. Petersburg losing its hosting rights.
Sorokin stated to the TASS news agency that “We are preparing the final according the plan.” “We expect more foreign fans to arrive.”
However, Russian members of the upper house voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Putin the right to use military force abroad. This effectively authorizes a Russian military deployment in rebel areas. The area is the scene of a eight-year conflict that has claimed nearly 14,000 lives.
Since Moscow annexed Crimea, Ukraine and backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, UEFA has kept the Russian and Ukrainian teams apart in draws.
Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company, has sponsored the Champions League since 2012. This was the same year that Ukraine hosted the European Championship with Poland. However, the logos of the company were removed by UEFA from a “Champions Festival”, a UEFA-branded festival on Kyiv’s main Street. This was when the Ukrainian capital hosted the 2018 Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
Russia is currently under a World Anti-Doping Agency sanction for state-sponsored cheating. This bans Russia from hosting international sporting events until December. UEFA, a European governing body, was not bound by this ruling. This meant that St. Petersburg hosted four games at last year’s European Championship.
Separately, on Tuesday, the Polish football association asked FIFA for urgent clarification on whether the World Cup playoff match against Russia on March 24 would be held in Moscow. For a spot at the World Cup in Qatar, the winner of the game will play either the Czech Republic or Sweden.
Russia must qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, November. The team name must change to something neutral and not include “Russia”.