There is growing unrest at the prospect of the Champions League final going ahead as planned in Saint Petersburg this May, with calls for the fixture to be moved in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s decision to order troops into eastern Ukraine.
Tracey Crouch, the former UK sports minister, has already urged European football’s governing body to relocate the May event in light of the Russian president’s renewed aggression.
Now, the SNP MP, Stewart McDonald, has said the game should not go ahead in the Russian city.
UEFA has so far said that it is “constantly and closely monitoring the situation,” but that it has “no plans to change the venue” of the fixture, which routinely attracts hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world and is seen as a way of projecting soft power through sport.
But Mr McDonald, a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the decision should be urgently revisited.
“As Russia violates international law and wages more war against a European democracy, hosting large events of this kind is wholly inappropriate,” he told The Scotsman. “Action should be taken to ensure that Russia cannot launder its reputation through sporting institutions.”
Ms Crouch, who served as the parliamentary under-secretary for state for sport, heritage and tourism under Theresa May and David Cameron, said the administrative body had to take action given the events in eastern Ukraine.
“Uefa should urgently reconsider the decision to hold the Champions League final in Russia following Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine,” the Conservative MP said.
“The ban on politicians and officials travelling to the Russian hosted 2018 World Cup was a soft message to President Putin which made no significant difference, so UEFA need to take a much stronger stance not least to ensure the safety of travelling fans.”
The final is due to be held at Saint Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium, also known as the Gazprom Arena.
It is home to Russian Premier League team, Zenit Saint Petersburg, who are owned by the Russian energy giant, Gazprom. The club is competing in this year’s Europa League competition.
Gazprom is also a longstanding commercial partner of UEFA, and is a corporate partner of the Champions League, the Nations League, the UEFA Super Cup, as well as the Euros. The state-controlled company also has a lucrative sponsorship deal in place with the German side, FC Schalke 04.
There has been speculation that if the Champions League venue was changed, Wembley could be in the running to host the game on 28 May.
However, the logistics of such a proposal are complicated by the fact that the stadium is already set to host the League Two and Championship play-off finals that weekend.
It is understood that UEFA is in talks with Dynamo Kyiv and Sporting Lisbon over their Youth League last-16 tie which is scheduled to be played in the Ukraine capital on 2 March.
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