UEFA urged to take Champions League showpiece off St Petersburg

By Mike Keegan and Matt Hughes and Sami Mokbel for the Daily Mail

22:30 22 Feb 2022, updated 22:39 22 Feb 2022

  • UEFA have been urged to strip Russia of the Champions League final this season
  • The final is due to be played at the Gazprom Arena, home of Zenit St Petersburg
  • However, Wembley and Spurs are ready to host the showpiece event instead
  • Meanwhile, Man United canceled a flight to Madrid with a Russian airline

Russia is set to be stripped of hosting the Champions League final after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into eastern Ukraine, sparking a global crisis.

UEFA held emergency talks on Tuesday about moving the May 28 showpiece away from St Petersburg, with Tottenham and Wembley on standby.

Sources have disclosed that UEFA would prefer to wait until the semi-final line-up is confirmed before choosing a new venue. But with four English teams in the last 16, Wembley and Spurs are in the reckoning.

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On a seismic day:

  • Boris Johnson declared it ‘inconceivable’ Russia could host the final.
  • The Prime Minister wrongly told Parliament that Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich had been ‘sanctioned’, with officials later forced to correct his comments.
  • Manchester United canceled a flight with Russian airline Aeroflot, their official carrier, for the trip to Atletico Madrid.
  • The Polish FA demanded ‘urgent clarity’ from FIFA over their World Cup play-off against Russia in Moscow on March 24.
UEFA are set to strip Russia of the Champions League final, due to be hosted in St Petersburg

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The Champions League final is due to be played at the 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena, home of Zenit St Petersburg. However, aside from the ugly optics of allowing the match to take place in Russia, there are logistical issues.

UEFA know bans on supporters traveling to Russia are likely to be enforced by foreign offices, including the UK’s. That was one of several issues outlined to Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin at yesterday’s meeting.

Tottenham and Wembley are yet to be approached but Spurs are open to what would be a lucrative contract.

A switch to Wembley would require the League Two play-off final — a direct clash on May 28 — and the Championship final the following day to be shifted.

The EFL are understood to be happy to discuss moving their matches.

The ugly optics of hosting in Russia, amid the escalating crisis in Ukraine, is of concern

In the Commons on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said Abramovich was ‘already facing sanctions’ despite that not being the case. Chelsea declined to respond and Mr Johnson’s comments were later clarified. The PM’s spokesperson said that Mr Johnson had ‘mis-spoke’ and ‘operationally the parliamentary record will be clarified at the earliest opportunity’. Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘It’s absolutely vital that President Putin understands what he is doing is going to be a disaster for Russia. He is going to end up with… a Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status, no chance of holding football tournaments.’

Earlier, former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch had called on UEFA to find a new venue for the Champions League final.

United normally travel overseas on Aeroflot, due to their longstanding commercial partnership with the Russian carrier.

Wembley and Tottenham are ready to take on hosting duties for the showpiece event in May

However, their charter flight to Spain for tonight’s Atletico clash was canceled and Ralf Rangnick’s squad traveled with UK-based Titan Airways.

The Champions League has been sponsored by majority Russian state-owned Gazprom since 2012.

That relationship is likely to come under the spotlight and several members of the European Parliament have already called for it to be terminated.

The Polish FA (PZPN) revealed they had been in touch with FIFA.

A spokesperson said: ‘Due to the tense political situation in Ukraine and the Russian Federation, as well as possible further escalation and the beginning of an armed conflict, the Polish Football Association asked FIFA to urgently clarify the issues related to the organization of the Russia – Poland World Cup play-off, scheduled for March 24 in Moscow.

Manchester United canceled their flight to Madrid with a Russian airline on Tuesday afternoon

‘The role of the Polish Football Association is to provide Polish footballers with optimal conditions for preparation and performances in international matches.

‘Political decisions remain in the hands of state authorities and international bodies.

‘However, being aware of the potential threats related to the current situation, we are waiting for the position of the governing bodies of the world federation.

‘At the same time, the PZPN emphasizes that this case concerns not only the Poland national team, but also the national teams of Sweden and the Czech Republic, which could potentially face Russia in Moscow in a possible play-off final.’

FIFA said they were monitoring the situation.

There are no Russians currently playing in the Premier League, but there are three Ukrainians — West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko, Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko and Everton’s Vitalii Mykolenko. Each will be offered support by their clubs if needed.


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