European football’s governing body is convening an emergency meeting of its top board members on Friday following the decision to strip it of the right to host the Champions League final, the big game. The club’s best of the year in St.Petersburg, Russia.
The governing body, UEFA, opposed the implementation of the measure earlier this week, even after the country moved to two rebel-controlled regions of Ukraine and after its president, Vladimir V. Putin , announced that Russia had officially recognized them as independent republics. UEFA took the measure after Russia’s invasion began early Thursday.
The game, on May 28, will be played in a stadium built before the 2018 World Cup and sponsored by Russian energy giant Gazprom, UEFA’s main sponsor since 2012. In 2021, UEFA added Gazprom’s chairman, Alexander Dyukov, to the board of directors, known as the Executive Committee. It’s unclear if Dyukov will attend the meeting, which will be a video call.
UEFA said in a statement that its president, Aleksander Ceferin, a Slovene lawyer, decided to convene the meeting “according to the evolution of the situation between Russia and Ukraine over the past 24 hours.”
“UEFA shares the international community’s considerable concern with the evolving security situation in Europe and strongly condemns Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine,” it said.
This week, speculation has begun about potential locations for a game to be relocated, with the British news media calling for it to be played in London. Last year’s final was played between two English teams, Manchester City and Chelsea, sponsored by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
The Champions League final has faced disruption since the coronavirus outbreak, with the tournament taking place in Portugal for two consecutive years. Other sites outside of the UK are still a possibility, including Istanbul, which had to exercise hosting rights for 2023 after giving up the last game in 2020 and 2021.
The British government has been the most vocal in calling for the game’s removal from Russia, with officials actively lobbying football’s governing bodies.
“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.
Fan groups have also called for the game to be relocated.
“On this tragic day, our thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine, their friends, colleagues, members and loved ones,” the group Europe Supporters tweeted hours after The Russian invasion begins. “Given the events unfolding, we expect an imminent announcement from UEFA regarding the postponement of the Champions League final.”
Football federations from Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden have written to FIFA calling for Russia to be banned from hosting playoff matches for the Qatar FIFA World Cup. Poland will meet Russia in Moscow next month, and if Russia wins, they will face a final elimination match with the winner of a match between the Czech Republic and Sweden also in Russia.
Gazprom’s influence extends beyond UEFA. Officials from the company – which controls Russia’s top club, FC Zenit – sit in other influential positions, such as the board of directors of the European Club Association, a group of representatives for top clubs. Gazprom since 2007 has also sponsored one of Germany’s top football teams, Schalke, an association that seems to have ended.
“Following recent developments, FC Schalke 04 has decided to remove the logo of main sponsor GAZPROM from the club’s jersey. It will be replaced by the reading of ‘Schalke 04’ instead,” the club said on Twitter on Thursday.
UEFA will also decide the fate of the teams from Russia that still participate in its competitions. On Thursday, Zenit will play the second match of a two-legged play-off against Real Betis in Spain in the Europa League, Europe’s second-tier club competition.
The crisis has also led to speculation about the future of Abramovich’s decades-long Chelsea ownership. He was not on the first list of Russian billionaires sanctioned by the British government this week. But some lawmakers said he and Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire whose parent company USM is the biggest partner of another Premier League side, Everton, should be added to the sanctions list.
Chris Bryant, a lawmaker in the opposition Labor Party, told Parliament on Thursday that Abramovich should “no longer be able to own a football club in this country”.
Bryant criticized the government for allowing Abramovich to continue doing business in the UK after saying he had seen official government documents from 2019 that described Russians as having “links to the Russian state and connections to the Russian state”. his public relations to corrupt practices and practices”.
“That was almost three years ago and very little has been done regarding this issue,” says Bryant. Abramovich previously had difficulty entering the UK after new visa restrictions were imposed on Russian businessmen in 2018. A Chelsea spokesman declined to comment.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/sports/soccer/uefa-will-strip-st-petersburg-of-champions-league-final.html UEFA will strip St.Petersburg of the right to participate in the Champions League final.