KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sporting concerns are of minimal importance as war returns to Europe with Russia’s military invasion and bombing of Ukraine. However, even on that level, and with the international sporting community in shock, the consequences will be significant.
An emergency executive committee of European federation UEFA will decide tomorrow [Friday] whether to remove this season’s Champions League Final from St Petersburg while world governing body FIFA faced calls to review next month’s World Cup play-off which Russia is scheduled to host against Poland
FIFA and the International Olympic Committee both condemned the Russian invasion.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed his concerns about “this tragedy” following a one-hour online council meeting.
Shortly before the meeting the football federations of Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic demanded that FIFA bar Russia from hosting next month’s World Cup playoffs.
Russia are scheduled to host Poland on March 24 and then, if they win, host Sweden or the Czechs on March 29 with a place in the finals in Qatar at stake.
The Ukrainian football federation 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.”
Plea for peace
Infantino said: “This morning we woke up and were shocked by what we saw. We are very worried about the situation. FIFA expresses a hope for a rapid cessation of hostilities and for peace in Ukraine.
“FIFA condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflict because violence is never a solution and therefore we call on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue and of course FIFA continue to express solidarity with the people affected by this conflict.
“In such situations football is not a prioriry but FIFA, as the world governing body, has a duty to look into the footballing consequences . . . so we continue to monitor the situation and communicate an update regarding the upcoming World Cup qualifers soon.
“The FIFA bureau [Infantino plus heads of all the six regional confederations] is dealing with these matters and can take decisions as soon as they are needed.”
UEFA’s Champions League Final is due to be staged in St Petersburg on May 28 and UEFA has already investigated potential venues in other countries. It said it was “constantly and closely monitoring the situation.”
The competition’s £35m sponsorship by Gazprom is also under scrutiny with its branding having a significant profile this week at Champions League round of 16 games.
The Champions League Finals of both 2020 and 2021 were moved at comparatively short notice because of Covid-19 restrictions. The 2020 final switched from from Istanbul to Lisbon and the 2021 final from St Petersburg to Porto.
The IOC, fresh from its image-battering at the Winter Games in Beijing, “strongly condemned the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian government.”
The so-called truce had been endorsed by the UN General Assembly on December 2 to begin seven days before the start of the Games, on February 4, and end seven days after the closing ceremony.
Bach’s vain hope
IOC president Thomas Bach, at that concluding event, had called on the political authorities to “observe your commitment to this Olympic Truce. Give peace a chance.”
A statement added: “Following recent events, 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.”
UEFA shares the international community’s significant concern for the security situation developing in Europe and strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine.
As the governing body of European football, UEFA is working 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 extend our hand to the Ukrainian people.
We are dealing with this situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency. Decisions will be taken by the UEFA Executive Committee and announced tomorrow.