Uefa set to move Champions League final away from Russia

Overnight developments in eastern Europe mean an alternative venue is being looked at for the 28 May showpiece

George Sessions
Thursday 24 February 2022 14:22 GMT
Nato chief condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine in ‘strongest possible terms’

Uefa is expected to move this season’s Champions League final out of Russia as the crisis in Ukraine escalates.

The 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg had been awarded the chance to host Europe’s showpiece event but events overnight are set to force a change of venue.

Russia president Vladimir Putin instructed an attack on Ukraine with explosions heard in the capital Kiev while blasts were also reported in the cities of Odessa and Kharkiv.

Uefa is monitoring the situation and will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Friday with the decision set to be confirmed and alternative locations for the 28 May event discussed.

"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,” a statement on Thursday read.

"As the governing body of European football, Uefa is working tirelessly to develop and promote football according to common European values such as peace and respect for human rights, in the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

"We remain resolute in our solidarity with the football community in Ukraine and stand ready to extend our hand to the Ukrainian people.

"We are dealing with this situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency. Decisions will be taken by the Uefa Executive Committee and announced tomorrow."

After changing the venue for the final for the 2020 and 2021 editions due to the coronavirus pandemic, European football’s governing body is set to be forced into a further switch but may wait until the latter stages of the competition to see which sides remain in the tournament.

If another all-English final was to occur, like last year’s between Chelsea and Manchester City, there would be pressure to host it in the UK but two major stadiums are already out of bounds.

Wembley is set to host the Championship play-off final on May 28 while the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is primed to host rugby league’s Betfred Challenge Cup Final on the same day.

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It may open the door to another venue in England’s capital, West Ham’s London Stadium, which would have space in its summer schedule.

London Stadium chief executive Graham Gilmore told the Daily Telegraph: “We have a great history of putting on world-class events from Major League Baseball to sold-out concerts and of course Premier League matches.

“We are always happy to hear from event holders, and there is a clear track record of the stadium and London hosting the biggest events brilliantly.”

Holders Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week told the House of Commons: “A Russia that has pariah status – no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”

Formula 1 have confirmed they are “closely watching” the situation but have stopped short of calling off or switching September’s Russian Grand Prix with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel already going on the record that he will boycott the Sochi race should it go ahead.

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