Champions League final moved from Russia to Paris

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Gazprom Arena, Russia

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 thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for “his personal support and commitment” to have the game moved to France at “a time of unparalleled crisis”.

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.

The decision to strip St Petersburg of the final has been criticised by Russian sporting and political officials.

Russian Football Union (RFU) president Alexander Dyukov, who serves on the Uefa executive committee and is the chief executive of Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Neft, said he “could not support” the move.

“We believe the decision was dictated by political reasons. The RFU has always adhered to the principle of “sport is out of politics’,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added: “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.”

However, 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 Conservative MP Dorries.

Labour’s Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, agreed it was a “welcome step”

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 and have been drawn against German side RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Europa League.

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

“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,” said Dyukov.

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.

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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