Uefa poised to move Champions League final from Russia
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest War in Ukraine news every morning.
European football’s governing body is set to block Russia from hosting the Champions League final in St Petersburg in May in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Uefa has come under increasing pressure to move the final of its flagship competition to a different country, while the governing body’s commercial ties to Russian state energy company Gazprom have also come under scrutiny.
“Following the evolution of the situation between Russia and Ukraine in the last 24 hours, Aleksander Ceferin, the Uefa president, has arranged an extraordinary meeting of the organisation’s executive committee,” the governing body said in a statement.
“We are dealing with this situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency,” Uefa said. “Decisions will be taken by the Uefa Executive Committee and announced tomorrow.”
It added that it “shares the international community’s significant concern for the security situation developing in Europe and strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine”.
While no formal decision has been made, a person with knowledge of the matter said it would be a surprise if the organisation did not move the match.
As well as arranging high-profile matches in Russia, Uefa has a longstanding partnership with Gazprom that goes back to 2012. The energy company sponsors the Krestovsky Stadium, which is known as the Gazprom Arena.
Uefa’s sponsorship with Gazprom was worth roughly €40mn a season from 2018-21, according to estimates by SportBusiness Sponsorship, the data and research group. The deal was then renewed until 2024.
The announcement of Friday’s meeting came amid growing international pressure on Uefa to strip Russia of the right to host the final. Earlier this week, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said there was “no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries”.
“I welcome the news that Uefa plan to announce the Champions League final to be moved from Russia. It is a great shame it has taken this amount of time to make the right decision,” said Julian Knight, a British MP, who chairs the country’s influential Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
On Thursday, Football Supporters Europe, which has members in more than 50 Uefa nations, said: “Given the events unfolding, we expect an imminent announcement from Uefa on the relocation of the Champions League final from Saint-Petersburg.”
Chris Bryant, an MP from the UK’s opposition Labour party who sits on the foreign affairs select committee in the House of Commons, on Wednesday told the Financial Times that Uefa should part ways with Gazprom.
The Krestovsky Stadium hosted matches at the 2018 Fifa World Cup and at Uefa’s Euro 2020, showcasing Russia on the world stage at two high-profile international football tournaments.
Uefa declined to confirm whether or not the executive committee would discuss terminating its partnership with Gazprom.
German football club FC Schalke 04 on Thursday said it had decided to remove the Gazprom logo from its shirts.