Champions League final moved from St. Petersburg after Russian invasion of Ukraine | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW
UEFA has moved the 2022 Champions League final from Saint Petersburg to Saint-Denis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European football’s governing body said in a statement on Friday.
How did we come here?
UEFA initially said there were “no plans to change venues”, but were “constantly and closely monitoring the situation” in Ukraine.
As Western governments have called for the final to be moved, several members of the European Parliament have also written to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin urging European football’s governing body to “end cooperation” with Gazprom.
When Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, pressure mounted on UEFA to act, leading them to call an extraordinary meeting of their executive committee on Friday morning.
What have they decided?
“The UEFA Executive Committee has decided to move the 2021/22 UEFA Men’s Champions League Final from Saint Petersburg to the Stade de France in Saint-Denis”, . The match will be played as originally scheduled on Saturday May 28 at 21:00 CET.”
The governing body thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his help in moving the “most prestigious game in European club football to France at a time of unprecedented crisis”.
While UEFA competitions are underway and member countries are expected to be in action during the international break at the end of March, the Executive Committee has also “decided that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams participating in UEFA competitions will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice.”
What is Gazprom’s role in this crisis?
As the invasion involving two of UEFA’s member countries intensifies, the German-Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 is used to pressure global politics.
More controversial than ever, the roughly 9 billion euro ($10.2 billion) pipeline, which is expected to deliver Russian gas across the Baltic Sea to Germany, is 100% owned by the Russian gas giant Gazprom.
The Champions League final was scheduled to take place at Gazprom Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
What is Gazprom’s relationship with European football?
Gazprom has sponsored the UEFA Champions League as a “premium partner” since 2012. In May 2021, the two entities signed a new, more extensive three-year contract which included sponsorship of the European Championships in 2021 and 2024 and the finals of the League of Nations in 2021 and 2023.
Former Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies presents Russian President Vladimir Putin with a Schalke kit in 2006
“Gazprom has proven to be one of our most reliable partners over the years, and we are delighted to welcome the company as a sponsor of the UEFA national team for the first time,” said said UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein at the time. The association did not disclose the financial scope of the sponsorship.
Why is Schalke under pressure?
Second Division side Schalke are sponsored by the German subsidiary of the Russian gas giant and said they were following events in Ukraine “with great concern”.
“Schalke will observe and assess further developments and issue a strong appeal for peace, to protect those affected by the crisis,” a statement read.
The sponsorship, which began in 2007 under controversial former chairman Clemens Tönnies, was recently extended until 2025 despite Schalke’s first relegation since 1991 in what was a record deal for a Bundesliga 2 side.
As a result, the club celebrated 15 years of relationship with their “loyal and reliable” partner and even presented adverts for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline at the VELTINS Arena.
Calls for them to end their lucrative deal led to the club announcing a decision to remove Gazprom sponsorship from their kits with immediate effect. Meanwhile, Matthias Warnig has informed Schalke that he can no longer sit on the supervisory board because he is on the US government’s list of people facing sanctions.