February 22, (THEWILL) – As the war conflict in Ukraine worsens, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), is considering striking out St Petersburg as the site of this year’s UEFA Champions League final.
As it currently stands, the final of Europe’s most prestigious club championship is set to take place on May 28, in Russia’s second-largest city. However, UEFA is under mounting pressure to change the location after Russian President, Vladimir Putin, revealed his plan to send soldiers into Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
The current UEFA position is that the match will be held in St Petersburg, but it is known that the situation is fluid, with officials exploring backup options. Because of COVID-19, the Champions League final has been rescheduled in both of the previous two seasons.
In a statement from the Association, UEFA stated that it was “constantly and closely monitoring the situation. At present, there are no plans to change the venue.”
The British government has weighed in on the controversy, stating its objection to the final taking place in St Petersburg. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There should be no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”
Nadine Dorries, the cultural secretary, stated that she intends to raise the matter with Uefa. “I have serious concerns about the sporting events due to be held in Russia, such as the Champions League Final, and will discuss with the relevant governing bodies,” she tweeted. “We won’t allow President Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimise his illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
Despite the fact that Russian teams are not a major force in the field of European football, with just Zenit St Petersburg remaining in any European competition this season, the country’s financial weight is considerable.
The Russian gas giant Gazprom is at the heart of European football and has long-standing economic ties with UEFA. It stated last summer that its sponsorship agreement with UEFA would be expanded to cover the European Championship, as well as the Champions and Europa Leagues. It also owns the naming rights to the Gazprom Arena, where the final is scheduled to take place.
As a response to Russia’s military activities, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to be stopped immediately. Gazprom is the owner of Nord Stream 2.
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