- Uefa confirms move after Russia invades Ukraine
- Club and national teams from both countries to complete Uefa-sanctioned matches at neutral venues
Paris will host this season’s Uefa Champions League final after the Russian invasion of Ukraine led to St Petersburg being stripped of its right to stage the match.
The Uefa executive committee held an emergency meeting on 25th February to discuss its response to the crisis and has opted to remove the showpiece match from the 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena in Russia’s second-largest city.
A statement from European soccer’s governing body said: ‘The Uefa executive committee decided to relocate the final of the 2021/22 Uefa Men’s Champions League from St Petersburg to Stade de France in St Denis.
‘The game will be played as initially scheduled on Saturday 28th May at 9pm CET.
‘Uefa wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic president Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis.’
The Uefa statement added: ‘Together with the French government, Uefa will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement.’
The executive committee also decided Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in Uefa competitions will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice.
The PA news agency understands Russia’s ExCo member Alexander Dyukov and Ukrainian member Andrii Pavelko were both involved in the emergency Uefa meeting.
This is set to affect Spartak Moscow in the second-tier Uefa Europa League, with the last 16 draw taking place later on 25th February, and also Russia and Ukraine national teams in the 2022/23 Nations League which is due to get underway in June.
Fifa has yet to take a decision on what to do about next month’s World Cup playoff matches.
Russia host Poland in a playoff semi-final on 24th March and would then face the winner of the Sweden v Czech Republic semi in Russia for a place in Qatar as things stand.
The federations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic issued a statement on 24th February insisting matches should not be played on Russian territory and demanding ‘alternative solutions’ be found.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on 24th February his organisation would look at the matter with “urgency” but said he hoped the situation would be resolved by next month.
Ukraine are due to face Scotland at Hampden Park in a playoff semi-final on 24th March, but that match is also in doubt with the Ukrainian league suspended following the invasion.
World players’ union FifPro issued a statement on the Russian invasion on 25th February, adding: ‘FifPro commends the sanctions that have targeted the individuals and businesses that enable the Putin regime and its assault on the rule of law.
‘Football must now follow the lead of democratic governments to review and sever any ties that undermine the basic principles of our industry.
‘FifPro stands together with the Ukrainian people and we are currently seeking assurances and support from the international football bodies to protect professional players in the country.’