Russian final criticised in Ukraine crisis

Glenn MooreAAP
Uefa have been called upon to strip St Petersburg's Gazprom Arena of the Champions League final.
Camera IconUefa have been called upon to strip St Petersburg's Gazprom Arena of the Champions League final. Credit: EPA

UEFA have so far resisted calls to move the Champions League final from St Petersburg in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin's recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, and ordering of the deployment of troops there,

European football's governing body reiterated "there are no plans to change the venue", but added it was ""constantly and closely monitoring the situation."

The demand came as the potential sporting ramifications of Putin's decisions began to emerge.

Besides hosting soccer's Champions League final in May World Cup play-offs are due to be held in Russia this year as are the volleyball world championships and, in September, a Formula One grand prix.

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There are also potential consequences for soccer clubs with links to Russian capital, such as Chelsea, Everton and, via sponsorship, Schalke 04.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the May 28 final should be moved from the 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena. Gas giant Gazprom, which is closely connected to the Russian state, is a long-standing UEFA sponsor.

Johnson, speaking after announcing new sanctions on Russian banks and wealthy individuals, told the House of Commons: "A Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status - no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.

Four English sides - holders Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United - are in the last 16 of the competition.

Members of the European Parliament sent an open letter to UEFA, stating: "We call on you to stop considering St Petersburg and other Russian cities as venues for international football competitions."

FIFA council member Alexey Sorokin, who also leads the organising committee for the final, said no discussions with UEFA had taken place about St. Petersburg losing the hosting rights.

"We are preparing for the final according to plan," Sorokin told the TASS news agency. "We expect more than 50,000 foreign fans to arrive."

Russia are also due to host Poland in a World Cup play-off on March 24 and - if they win - would entertain Sweden or Czech Republic five days later.

The Polish football federation asked FIFA "to urgently clarify" whether the tie against Russia will be played in Moscow as scheduled.

The world volleyball federation (FIVB) said it was not currently considering taking August and September's men's World Championship away from Russia.

"The FIVB believes that sport should always remain separate from politics, but we are closely monitoring the situation to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants in our events, which is our top priority," the federation said.

Chelsea, owned by oligarch Roman Abramovich, and Everton, whose owner Farhid Moshiri is chairman of Russian holding company USM, are among the clubs that could face problems if sanctions are expanded.

German second-division football club Schalke, sponsored by the German subsidiary of Gazprom since 2007, said they were following events in Ukraine "with great concern".

With agencies

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