Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has exposed fissures in European football that are threatening multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals and leading to calls to move the biggest game on this season’s calendar. , the Champions League final, out of the scheduled host city, St.Petersburg.
UEFA, football’s governing body in Europe and the organizer of the Champions League, has refused to give in to requests from several European nations to postpone the match, scheduled for May 29. The strongest opposition to Russia’s hosting comes from Britain, this country. may give one or both participants the final. Last year’s final was played between two Premier League teams, Manchester City and Chelsea. The latter is owned by a Russian tycoon, Roman Abramovich.
“I am really concerned about sporting events that will be held in Russia, such as the Champions League final, and will be in discussions with the relevant governing bodies,” said Nadine Dorries, UK government minister. responsible for sports, wrote on Twitter.
Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, told the BBC on Wednesday morning that she opposed having the final take place in St.
UEFA said it was “constantly and closely monitoring the situation.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced sanctions against three other Russian billionaires as part of a set of measures targeting people close to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr Abramovich, an ally of the Russian leader, previously had difficulty entering the UK after new visa restrictions were imposed on Russian businessmen in 2018.
There are no direct consequences to his investment in Chelsea, but Mr Johnson’s government has said it is planning further measures if Russia does not restrict its activities in Ukraine.
Fans of Everton, another Premier League side, also face a nervous wait. Its biggest sponsor, USM, is controlled by Alisher Usmanov, another Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin. Margaret Hodge, a lawmaker from Britain’s opposition Labor Party, told Parliament that Mr Abramovich and Mr Usmanov were subject to sanctions, describing them as “petty thieves from the Russian people”.
The ripples of the crisis have also reached Germany, where Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, has, since 2007, been a sponsor of one of the country’s top football teams, Schalke. German sports leaders, politicians and fan groups have called for an end to the agreement.
The club said in a statement that it would “monitor further developments, assess them and urgently call for peace – to protect those affected by the crisis.”
Gazprom is a major football sponsor, providing millions of dollars to teams and, importantly, to UEFA through a long-standing commercial relationship. As a leading partner, the Gazprom logo is now a common sight in stadiums and on television programs during the Champions League, the most club-rich football tournament.
Gazprom has several other agreements in the field of football, especially with FIFA, the organizer of the World Cup. FIFA did not comment on its relationship with the company, or with Russia, as Russian Army units under Putin’s direction have moved against neighboring Ukraine.
However, it may be time to do so soon: The Polish Football Federation on Tuesday asked for clarification on the status of the crucial World Cup match against Russia, scheduled to take place in Moscow next month.
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