KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- UEFA has switched the Champions League Final on May 28 from St Petersburg to the Stade de France in St-Denis.

Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams must now play home UEFA competition matches at neutral venues. In fact Spartak Moscow are the only Russian team left in European club competition this season, having reached the Europa League last 16.

These decisions emerged from an emergency meeting of the European football federation’s executive committee summoned in the wake of the Russian military assault on Ukraine.

A UEFA statement said the decisions had been taken in response to the “grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.” It also expressed its express “thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment.”

New venue: the Stade de France

UEFA also noted its concern for players and officials in Ukraine including foreign footballers stranded behind the lines.

This is the third successive season in which the final venue has been changed. The Covid-19 pandemic was to blame for the 2020 final moving from Istanbul to Lisbon and for the 2021 final being altered from St Petersburg to Porto.

UEFA’s statement did not refer to its £30m sponsorship deal with Gazprom. The Russian energy giant is also naming rights sponsor of the St Petersburg stadium.

World federation FIFA must still rule on next month’s World Cup playoffs involving Russia. The Russian national team 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 Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic federations have demanded jointly that FIFA bars Russia from hosting the playoffs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated desire to emasculate an independent state of Ukraine is certain to provoke widespread demands for Russian teams to be expelled from international events.

Both FIFA and UEFA will await further events and hope for some sort of guidance from bodies such as the United Nations which provide formal reasoning for whatever decisions they reach.

In 1992 UEFA expelled Yugoslavia from the European Championship finals out of security concerns because of the military actions which led to the country’s fragmentation.

UEFA statement:

The UEFA Executive Committee today held an extraordinary meeting following the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.

The UEFA Executive Committee decided to relocate the final of the 2021/22 UEFA Men’s Champions League from Saint Petersburg to Stade de France in Saint-Denis.  The game will be played as initially scheduled on Saturday 28 May at 21:00 CET. 

UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis. 

Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement.

At today’s meeting, the UEFA Executive Committee also decided that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in UEFA competitions will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice.

The UEFA Executive Committee further determined to remain on standby to convene further extraordinary meetings, on a regular ongoing basis where required, to reassess the legal and factual situation as it evolves and adopt further decisions as necessary.