No Champions League final in St Petersburg after MEPs’ protest

MEPs asked UEFA to terminate the cooperation with Gazprom as UEFA sponsor

UEFA will move this season’s Champions League final from St Petersburg, with an extraordinary meeting called for Friday morning to confirm Russia is being stripped of the showpiece match.

The final of the Champions League, the most prestigious football tournament organised by UEFA, is due to be played in St Petersburg next 28 May in the Krestovsky Stadium, also known as Gazprom Arena for sponsorship reasons.

The executive committee will meet to discuss the consequences for football of the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia, with the aim of the meeting “to evaluate the situation and take all necessary decisions”.

UEFA came under increasing pressure to act after the escalation of tensions this week and said in a statement on Thursday that it strongly condemned Russia’s invasion, was “resolute in our solidarity with the football community in Ukraine” and “ready to extend our hand to the Ukrainian people”.

The governing body added: “We are dealing with this situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency.”

The British government called for the match, scheduled for Saturday 28 May, to be moved and on Thursday members of the European Parliament wrote to Uefa calling for an extraordinary meeting, to discuss not only moving the final but terminating sponsorship arrangements with the Russian gas company Gazprom.

The letter, addressed to UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin with UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoris in copy, was initiated by German Greens MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.

The letter called on Čeferin and UEFA “to take appropriate and consistent action” after the most recent political developments in Ukraine.

“In the light of the serious international situation following Putin’s recognition of the Donbas and the invasion of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory, it is clear that the city of St Petersburg will not be able to host the Champions League final on 22 May,” the letter read.

Apart from choosing an alternative venue for the Champions League final “as a first and a very urgent step”, MEPs also asked Europe’s football governing body not to consider any other Russian city as a venue for international football competitions.

Lawmakers also targeted the controversial relationship with UEFA and Gazprom, the Russia-owned energy company that has been one of the main sponsors of the Champions League tournament since 2012.

MEPs asked UEFA to terminate the cooperation with Gazprom as UEFA sponsor, as well as consider sanctions against individual Russian officials who are complicit in the violations of international law.

In a tweet, the initiator of the letter von Cramon suggested that also Schalke 04, the German football club of the Gelsenkirchen city, should quit its long-standing Gazprom sponsorship too. “Dependence on Russian money is a big problem – also in sports. We are politically vulnerable and open to blackmail,” she wrote.