Russia Stripped of Champions League Final After Ukraine Invasion

0
518

The final of the 2022 European soccer club championship was set to be held in St. Petersburg on May 28.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, said Thursday that the Champions League final, the biggest match in European club soccer, will not be played in St. Petersburg, Russia. UEFA stripped Russia of hosting honors following the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine early Thursday.

The game, set for May 28, was to be played in a stadium financed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, one of UEFA’s major sponsors.

UEFA will convene an emergency meeting of its top board members on Friday to decide an alternative location for the match. It is not clear whether Gazprom’s chairman, Alexander Dyukov, who was named to UEFA’s board last year, will attend the meeting, which will be a video call.

“UEFA shares the international community’s significant concern for the security situation developing in Europe and strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine,” the group said in a statement.

UEFA had resisted taking any measure to sanction Russia even when, earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally recognized two rebel-held parts of east Ukraine as independent republics and moved armed forces into the region.

The conflict in Ukraine is shining a light on Gazprom and the company’s outsized influence on European soccer. In addition to controlling Russia’s top club, F.C. Zenit, Gazprom members sit on the boards of influential sports groups including the European Club Association, which represents top clubs across the continent. Since 2007, Gazprom has been a major sponsor of

Schalke, one of Germany’s biggest clubs. But on Thursday, Schalke said they would be removing the Gazprom logo from their club shirts in protest over the military invasion.

UEFA still has to decide whether Russian teams still in club competitions will be allowed to continue playing. Zenit on Thursday was set to play the second game of a playoff against Real Betis in Spain in the Europa League, Europe’s second-tier club tournament.