UEFA to move Champions League final after Russia invades Ukraine; Poland will not travel to World Cup qualifiers

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UEFA called an extraordinary meeting of its executive committee on Friday to discuss the worsening crisis between Russia and Ukraine. European football’s governing body are set to move this season’s Champions League final to May 28, which was originally scheduled to take place at St Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium, after Russia stepped up their campaign against their neighbor with an attack large-scale military action against Ukraine. in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Missiles reportedly landed near several major Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kiev, prompting further outcry from the international community. The United States is among the nations that have confirmed they will impose sanctions on Russia, Vladimir Putin’s regime and its allies; details of the US package will be announced later Thursday. In such circumstances, it is inevitable that the venue for the showpiece match in European football will move.

“Following developments in the situation between Russia and Ukraine over the past 24 hours, the UEFA President has decided to convene an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee on Friday 25 February at 10:00 CET, in order to assess the situation and take any necessary decisions,” a statement said. “Further communications will be made after the UEFA Executive Committee meeting.”

Additionally, UEFA issued a statement condemning the Russian military invasion and expressing its solidarity with the residents of Ukraine.

UEFA shares the deep concern of the international community at the evolving security situation in Europe and strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

As the governing body of European football, UEFA works tirelessly to develop and promote football according to common European values ​​such as peace and respect for human rights, in the spirit of the Olympic Charter. We remain resolute in our solidarity with the football community in Ukraine and stand ready to reach out to the people of Ukraine.

We are treating this situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency. Decisions will be taken by the UEFA Executive Committee and announced tomorrow.

Sources from CBS Sports confirm that UEFA are drawing up contingency plans for alternate venues, although a specific replacement may not be selected until later in the Champions League tournament when it becomes clearer which countries will potentially be involved in the final. London has been suggested as a possible host city and West Ham’s 60,000 capacity stadium has hinted it would be interested in hosting the final, which has involved five English teams in the last four years. Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium are both currently in use on the day of the final.

The Champions League final is not the only topic to discuss. Questions have also been raised about UEFA’s involvement with Gazprom. The majority state-owned energy company has sponsored the Champions League since 2012, adverts for the company have been a staple of match broadcasts ever since. The deal is estimated at $45 million a year.

European Parliament politicians have called for an end to this association, saying in an open letter: “We call on you to stop considering St. Petersburg and other Russian cities as venues for international football competitions and to choose as the first very urgent stage an alternative venue for the Champions League final on May 28, 2022.

“Furthermore, we ask you to convene a special meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee, end cooperation with Gazprom as UEFA’s sponsor and consider sanctions against Russian officials who are complicit in violation of international law.”

German club Schalke 04 have announced that they will drop Gazprom as their shirt sponsor.

In football terms, Russia are due to host Poland in a World Cup qualifier on March 24. If she won this match, she would also play at home against the winner of the game between Sweden and the Czech Republic. The football associations of the three countries say they will not travel to Russia.

A joint statement said: “Based on the current alarming developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, including the security situation, the football associations of Poland (PZPN), Sweden (SvFF) and the Czech Republic ( FAR) express their firm position that the playoff matches will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for March 24-29, 2022, should not be played on the territory of the Russian Federation.

“The signatories of this appeal do not plan to travel to Russia and play football matches there. The military escalation we are witnessing has serious consequences and greatly reduced security for our national football teams and delegations. Therefore, we expect FIFA and UEFA to react immediately and to present alternative solutions regarding the venues where these approaching qualifiers could be played.”

The country’s involvement in this summer’s European Women’s Championships and the men’s Nations League will also be discussed. Real Betis are due to face Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday.

Zenit and Spartak Moscow, who will be in the hat of the knockout stages of the Europa League, are the last Russian representatives in European competition this season. No Ukrainian team has qualified for the final stages of the three UEFA competitions. The Ukrainian national championship was due to resume this weekend but was suspended due to the dispute.

Ukraine international Yaroslav Rakitskyi plays for Zenit, he posted a picture of his country’s flag on his Instagram with the caption “I am Ukrainian”. Meanwhile, several Brazilian footballers gathered at a hotel where they asked for updates. Brazil has the most foreign representatives in the Ukrainian league, with 30.

Marlon, one of 13 Brazilians on Shakhtar Donetsk’s list, said: “We are asking you here for help through this video due to the lack of fuel that exists in the city, closed borders, the closed airspace, there is no way for us to We ask a lot of support from the government of Brazil, so that they can help us. And I hope you can help us by promoting this video so that can reach as many people as possible.

Shakhtar left their hometown in 2014 when conflict began with Russia in eastern Ukraine. They have been playing at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium since 2020. Their manager, Roberto De Zerbi, said he woke up to the sound of bombs but disregarded Italian advice to leave the country.

“I stay in my room. Today is not a good day,” De Zerbi told Sportitalia. “I waited for the federation to suspend the season until that happened. However, I didn’t move. I’m here to play sports and I couldn’t turn my back on the fans.

“There are 13 Brazilian players here and my staff. We could have gone home, but we preferred to wait. Last night we woke up to the sound of explosions.” Ukrainian airspace is now closed to civilian flights, meaning De Zerbi and millions of others may not be able to leave the capital.

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