Russia was stripped of hosting the Champions League final by UEFA on Friday with St. Petersburg replaced by Paris after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The men’s final will still be held on May 28 but now at the 80,000-seat Stade de France after the decision by UEFA’s executive committee.
“UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis,” European football’s governing body said in a statement. “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.”
The meeting also decided that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams in UEFA competitions will have to play at neutral venues until further notice.
Meanwhile, Manchester United dropped Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot as a sponsor citing “events in Ukraine” after the company was banned in Britain on Thursday as part of sanctions.
Man United’s more than $50 million sponsorship deal was set to run through 2023. Aeroflot has been the football club’s official carrier since 2013. A United spokesperson said: “We share the concerns of our fans around the world and extend our sympathies to those affected.”
Alexander Dyukov, a Russian member of the UEFA executive committee, complained the decision to replace St. Petersburg with Paris was taken for “political reasons.” Dyukov also opposed UEFA ordering Russian clubs and national teams to play at neutral venues until further notice — a ruling also imposed on Ukrainian sides.
There is the unresolved matter of Russia still being due to host Poland in World Cup qualifying playoff semifinals in Moscow. Poland wants the game taken out of Russia, but FIFA has yet to decide.
The Stade de France last hosted the Champions League final 16 years ago, when Barcelona beat Arsenal in the 2006 final.
The 68,000-capacity St. Petersburg stadium was originally picked in 2019 to host the final in 2021. That was postponed by one year in the fallout of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stadium is named for Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom, which is also a top-tier UEFA sponsor of the Champions League and European Championship.
UEFA executive committee member Alexander Dyukov is the CEO of a Gazprom subsidiary.
The move comes as Russian bombs and troops pounded Ukraine during the invasion’s first full day, and world leaders on Friday began to fine-tune a response meant to punish the Russian economy and its leaders, including President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
This is a live update. Click here for complete coverage of the crisis in Ukraine.
Pictures from the Russian Attacks on Ukraine
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