Uefa is ready to drop St Petersburg as the venue for this year’s Champions League final as the military crisis in Ukraine deepens.
The final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition is due to be played in Russia’s second-largest city on 28 May but Uefa finds itself under increasing pressure to move the venue after Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, announced a decision to send troops into Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Uefa’s current position remains that the match will be played in St Petersburg but it is understood that the situation is fluid, with officials considering contingency plans. The Champions League final has been moved, because of Covid, in both of the past two seasons.
“Uefa is constantly and closely monitoring the situation,” the governing body said in a statement. “At present, there are no plans to change the venue.”
Although Russian clubs are not a significant player on the pitch, with only Zenit St Petersburg remaining in European competition this season, the country’s financial clout is significant.
Gazprom, the Russian gas company, is at the heart of European football and has longstanding commercial arrangements with Uefa. Last summer it announced an expansion of its sponsorship arrangement with Uefa to include the European Championship as well as the Champions and Europa Leagues. It also holds the naming rights for the stadium at which the final is due to be played, the Gazprom Arena.
On Tuesday the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called for the immediate shutdown of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline project as a response to Russia’s military actions. Nordstream 2 is owned by Gazprom.