Ukraine conflict: Champions League final moved from Russia to Paris

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The 2022 Champions League final will be played in Paris after Russia was stripped of the match following the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

The final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition was due to be played in St Petersburg on 28 May.

Following a meeting on Friday, Uefa confirmed the match would not be held at the Gazprom Arena.

Instead the European football governing body has decided it will be staged at the Stade de France in Paris.

Uefa expressed “thanks and appreciation” to French President Emmanuel Macron for “his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis”.

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It added: “Together with the French government, Uefa will 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.”

It is the third year running the venue of the Champions League final has been moved.

In 2020, it was switched from Istanbul to Lisbon because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Turkish city was set to host the game last year instead but it was again moved to Portugal – this time, Porto – because of the pandemic.

“It’s a shame that such a decision has been made,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“St Petersburg could have provided all favourable conditions to hold this festival of soccer.”

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries welcomed “decisive action” by Uefa.

“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,” said Dorries.

Russian & Ukrainian clubs to play at neutral venues

At Friday’s meeting, Uefa also ordered Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams to play their home matches away from the region.

Spartak Moscow are the only Russian team left in European club competition this season, having reached the Europa League last 16.

They will find out their opponents – with Scottish Premiership champions Rangers one of the clubs they could be paired with – when the draw takes place at 11:00 GMT.

Spartak, along with other Russian and Ukrainian sides, will “be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice”, said Uefa.

Russia and Ukraine are both scheduled to play 2022 men’s World Cup play-off matches in March, with world governing body Fifa saying on Thursday it was monitoring the situation in the region.

Russia are due to host Poland in Moscow on 24 March, while Ukraine travel to Scotland on the same day.

In other developments:

  • Manchester City’s Ukraine defender Oleksandr Zinchenko joined a vigil in Manchester city centre to show support for his country
  • Manchester United are looking into the possibility of terminating their sponsorship deal with Russia’s national airline Aeroflot
  • Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev, soon to be the world’s leading men’s player, said hearing the news of his nation’s invasion was “not easy” and wants to “promote peace all over the world”
  • Formula 1 team Haas have removed their Russian-based sponsor – a company owned by Dmitry Mazepin, a close associate of Vladimir Putin – from their equipment during the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona. Mazepin’s son, Nikita, is one of Haas’ drivers
  • Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina has pleaded for help to “stop the war”

Uefa does not address Gazprom relationship

In the statement announcing its decisions, Uefa did not mention its relationship with Russian state-run gas giant Gazprom.

Gazprom is one of Uefa’s major sponsors in a long-term deal worth about £30m, as well as holding the naming rights for St Petersburg’s 68,000-capacity stadium.

Gazprom is also the main sponsor of German club Schalke, who announced on Thursday the logo of the company would be removed from the club’s shirts.

Alex Phillips, a former Uefa executive and now an independent adviser to Fifa, said Uefa will have to “seriously revise who they accept sponsorships with”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “When I was at Uefa I was head of compliance and I wrote a series of regulations recommending that this sort of relationship should be, at the very least, out in the open and regulated.”

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