European football’s governing body, UEFA, is under pressure to strip the Champions League final from Russia.
Four English sides – Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – are in the last 16 of the competition, and the final is due to be played at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg on 28 May.
UEFA is holding internal talks about potentially moving the match and no decision has yet been made.
The governing body says it currently has “no plans” to change the venue, but is “constantly and closely monitoring the situation”.
Ukraine key developments:
• PM announces ‘first barrage’ of sanctions on Russia
• International condemnation at UN Security Council as Putin recognises independence of separatist regions
• Germany halts approval of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline
Political pressure on UEFA
Mr Johnson on Tuesday warned of “a Russia that is more isolated” and said its “pariah status” following the “renewed invasion” of Ukraine bars it from holding football games on the international stage.
He told MPs there is “no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries”.
Tom Tugendhat, Tracey Crouch and Nadine Dorries also joined calls for Russia to be stripped of the final.
Mr Tugendhat, who is chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “UEFA should not be providing cover to a violent dictatorship.”
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.
We won’t allow President Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimise his illegal invasion of Ukraine.
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) February 22, 2022
Culture secretary Ms Dorries tweeted: “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.
“We won’t allow President Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimise his illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
Former sports minister Ms Crouch, told BBC Sport that UEFA should “immediately” move the final and “take a much stronger stance not least to ensure the safety of travelling fans”.
It comes as Mr Johnson announced new sanctions against Russia, freezing the UK assets of five Russian banks and three oligarchs.
World Cup qualifier and Youth League tie in doubt
The Champions League final has been sponsored by Gazprom, Russia’s state gas company, since 2012 – the same year Ukraine co-hosted the European Championship with Russia.
The company’s logos were removed from a UEFA-branded festival on Kyiv’s main street when the 2018 Champions League final was staged in the Ukrainian capital.
UEFA has been keeping Ukrainian and Russian teams separated in draws to prevent them from playing each other since Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
The Champions League final has been moved in the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s not just the Champions League final that will be hosted in the two conflicting countries this year.
UEFA is also in talks with Dynamo Kyiv and Sporting Lisbon over their Youth League last-16 tie, which is scheduled to be played in the Ukrainian capital on 2 March.
Russia is also scheduled to host Poland in a World Cup playoff on 24 March, while Ukraine face Scotland at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
Source Link: Read more