The Russian city of Saint Petersburg could lose the right to host the UEFA Champions League final this year due to tensions with Ukraine.
Officials from European football’s governing body have held discussions over the situation after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, and the European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada have all announced new sanctions in response.
The showpiece match in European football will be played on May 28 at the Gazprom Arena in Russia’s second city, the country’s biggest sporting event since the 2018 World Cup.
UEFA have yet to issue a further statement following the most recent developments, but said over the weekend that they are “constantly and closely monitoring the situation” and have no plans to change. the final place.
However, a person with knowledge of the situation said the Ukraine crisis was discussed by senior UEFA officials on Tuesday, including its president, Aleksander Ceferin. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks assessing the geopolitical situation.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that Russia should not hold such a competition.
Johnson warned of “a more isolated Russia. A Russia that has pariah status… no chance of organizing football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”
Britain’s Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, said she had “serious concerns about the sporting events that will be held in Russia, such as the Champions League final, and that ‘it will discuss with the competent authorities’.
UEFA have had to move the Champions League final for the past two seasons, both times from Turkey to Portugal due to the pandemic. A full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine would significantly change UEFA’s belief that the final could still be played in Saint Petersburg.
With four representatives in the last 16, England have the most teams remaining in the Champions League. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee in the House of Commons, has called on UEFA to withdraw the final from Russia.
“This is a shameful decision,” Tugendhat tweeted. “UEFA should not cover up a violent dictatorship.”
Russian and Ukrainian teams separated in matches
UEFA has separated Ukrainian and Russian teams in draws to prevent them from playing each other since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and backed separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian gas company, Gazprom, has been a sponsor of the Champions League since 2012 – the same year Ukraine co-hosted the European Championship with Russia.
But the company’s logos were removed from a UEFA-branded ‘Festival of Champions’ on Kyiv’s main street when the Ukrainian capital staged the 2018 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.