The venue for the 2022 Champions League final is transferred to France

UEFA moved this year’s Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe soccerthe governing body said in a statement on Friday.

UEFA also said home matches of Ukrainian and Russian clubs and national teams participating in UEFA competitions would be played at neutral venues “until further notice”.

The governing body thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his “personal support and commitment” in taking charge of the final.

He added that he would “fully support multi-party efforts to ensure the rescue of football players and their families in Ukraine who face terrible human suffering, destruction and displacement.”

The Champions League final was due to take place at Zenit Saint Petersburg Stadium on May 28 with thousands of fans from across the continent expected to watch the exhibition match at a European club. soccer.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call: “It’s a pity that such a decision was made. St. Petersburg could have provided all the favorable conditions for holding this festival of soccer.”

Thomas Tuchel, the German manager of last season’s Champions League winner Chelsea, which is owned by Russian Roman Abramovich, said he agreed with the decision.

“Yes, a clear yes. Unfortunately, I think that’s the worst reason to change venues, the worst reason. We feel horrible about it in general, it clouds our minds and our focus. We understand the decision “, he told a news. conference.

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UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, head of sport, said the decision was justified.

“Russia must not be allowed to exploit sporting and cultural events on the world stage to legitimize its unprovoked, premeditated and unnecessary attack on a sovereign democratic state,” she said.

Saint Petersburg Stadium is known as Gazprom Stadium following a sponsorship deal with the Russian state energy company, which also sponsors the Champions League and Euro national team competition 2024 from UEFA.

The decision to deprive Saint Petersburg of the final follows calls from a group of European lawmakers who on Thursday asked UEFA to change venues and stop considering Russian cities for major international competitions. soccer competitions.

Lawmakers have also asked UEFA to end Gazprom’s sponsorship of the continent’s elite club competition. Friday’s UEFA statement made no mention of Gazprom, however.

Russian Football Union (RFU) president Alexander Dyukov, who also sits on the UEFA executive and is CEO of Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Neft, criticized UEFA’s decision.

“We believe that the decision to move the venue for the Champions League final was politically driven. The RFU has always adhered to the principle ‘sport is out of politics’ and therefore cannot support this decision,” he said in a statement. statement on the RFU website.

“The RFU also does not support the decision to transfer matches involving Russian teams to neutral territory, as it violates the sporting principle and harms the interests of players, coaches and fans,” he added.

The 2023 Champions League final is set to be played in Istanbul, with Wembley in London hosting the following year and Munich’s Allianz Arena the venue for the final in 2025.

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Manchester, Dmitry Antonov in Moscow and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Jason Neely and Christian Radnedge)

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