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Ukraine crisis: Uefa to move Champions League final after Russian invasion

Saint Petersburg 2022 final banner in the Krestovsky Stadium
The Champions League final was scheduled to take place at Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg on 28 May

Uefa will take the 2022 Champions League final away from St Petersburg following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision will be made at Friday’s emergency meeting of European football’s governing body.

Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a military invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday.

World football’s governing body Fifa is to meet on Thursday with Russia and Ukraine both scheduled to play in World Cup play-off matches in March.

Russia are set to play Poland on 24 March, while Scotland host Ukraine on the same day.

Ukraine’s domestic football league was set to resume this weekend after a winter break but that will remain suspended. Fifteen of the most recent 23-man Ukraine squad play in their homeland.

Sweden are also in the play-offs and would meet Russia for a place at the World Cup finals, which get under way in Qatar in November, if both win their semi-finals. Karl-Erik Nilsson, the chairman of the Swedish Football Association, told Reuters a match in Russia was “almost unthinkable” at the moment.

The Champions League final was set to be played at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg on 28 May but Uefa has known an escalation in the situation between Russia and Ukraine would make it impossible to stage the match.

Overnight developments have made that certain and Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has called an emergency executive committee meeting for Friday when the decision will be confirmed.

Uefa is in the process of evaluating alternatives but is now committed to changing the venue of its most prestigious club game at short notice for the third year running.

Meanwhile, Zenit St Petersburg’s game on Thursday will go ahead, Uefa has confirmed.

They face Spanish side Real Betis away in the Europa League at 20:00 GMT.

In Ukraine, football at all levels has been suspended and the Ukrainian FA has said it will appeal to prevent any Russian national or club teams participating in “any international competitions under the auspices of Fifa and Uefa”.

Uefa later said it “shared the international community’s concern” for Ukraine.

“We remain resolute in our solidarity with the football community in Ukraine and stand ready to extend our hand to the Ukrainian people,” Uefa said in a statement.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in condemning Russia’s breach of the Olympic Truceexternal-link before the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

The Olympic Truce began seven days before the start of the Winter Olympics and ends seven days after the closing of the Winter Paralympics.

A statement said: “The IOC is deeply concerned about the safety of the Olympic community in Ukraine.

“It has established a task force to closely monitor the situation and to coordinate humanitarian assistance to members of the Olympic community in Ukraine where possible.”

A Russian delegation will be heading to the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, which begin on 4 March, and the International Paralympic Committee has said it is “in dialogue” with the Ukrainian and Russian Paralympic Committees amid the ongoing crisis.

Meanwhile, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has said it is “monitoring the escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict” and the safety of participants at their World Cup competitions in Russia this weekend.

Formula 1 says it is “closely watching the fluid developments”, with the Russian Grand Prix due to take place in Sochi in September.

Analysis

Simon Stone, BBC Sport

It would be a major surprise if Uefa had not stripped St Petersburg of hosting rights for this year’s Champions League final.

From the start of the week, it has been acknowledged Uefa could not hope to host an event in Russia when the country was subject to widespread international sanctions.

Competing clubs would not want to go there and neither would their fans.

Uefa will hope Zenit St Petersburg are eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday as if they go through, they would be at risk of expulsion anyway – and at least having to play matches in neutral countries.

Sourced From BBC

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