Champions League final moved to Paris from St Petersburg after Russian invasion of Ukraine

CL final to be played at the Stade de France on May 28; Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in UEFA competitions to play home matches at neutral venues; Man Utd end commercial partnership with Russian state airline Aeroflot following invasion of Ukraine

The Champions League final will now take place at the Stade de France in Paris
Image: The Champions League final will now take place at the Stade de France in Paris

UEFA has moved the Champions League final on May 28 to Paris from St Petersburg, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The UEFA executive committee held an emergency meeting on Friday and decided to move the showpiece to the Stade de France from the 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena in Vladimir Putin's home city.

Following UEFA's move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call: "It's a shame that such a decision has been made.

"St Petersburg could have provided all favourable conditions to hold this festival of soccer."

Zenit St. Petersburg's Gazprom Arena had been scheduled to host the Champions League final on May 28
Image: Zenit St. Petersburg's Gazprom Arena had been scheduled to host the Champions League final on May 28

Manchester United have taken the decision to drop their commercial partnership with Russian state airline Aeroflot following the invasion of Ukraine.

European football's governing body is coming under increasing pressure to cut ties with key sponsor Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy company.

UEFA's executive committee also said 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.

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This is set to affect Spartak Moscow in the Europa League - who were paired with RB Leipzig in Friday's draw - and also Russia and Ukraine in the 2022-23 Nations League which is due to get under way in June.

'It's a human disaster' - Sport responds to Ukraine invasion

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick says it was "inevitable" and the "right decision" to take the Champions League final away from Russia, describing the situation in Ukraine as "desperately sad".

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Manchester United Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has agreed with the decision to move the Champions League Final from St Petersburg in Russia to Paris in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"It's a human disaster what's happening there with all the people involved," he added. "I still cannot believe what I see there. I hope the politicians around the world can de-escalate what is going on there."

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel agreed with the decision to move the game. He said: "Sadly, I think it's the worst reason to change the location. Absolutely the worst reason. We feel horrible about it in general. It clouds our minds and it clouds our focus of course, and we can absolutely understand the decision."

West Ham manager David Moyes says the club have given winger Andriy Yarmolenko "a few days off" as the Ukraine international is "not in a very good position at the moment".

"We'll do all we can to help him, it's a really difficult time for him and his family," said Moyes. "I spoke with him yesterday, and he was upset, which you can imagine. We just hope his family keep safe."

Everton's Ukraine international Vitalii Mykolenko is being given all the support he needs, according to manager Frank Lampard.

The defender wrote in a post on Instagram on Thursday about hearing "the anxious voice of my parents who are looking for an opportunity to protect themselves" in their homeland after the Russian invasion.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries backed the UEFA decision and said "Russia must not be allowed to exploit sporting and cultural events on the world stage to legitimise" its actions.

The European Club Association said they are "deeply concerned" by the situation in Ukraine and described Russia's action as "unacceptable, supporting the UEFA's call to move the final.

Elsewhere, Formula One announced on Friday that the Russian Grand Prix on September 25 had been cancelled, stating that "it was impossible to hold in the current circumstances".

FIFA undecided over next month's WC qualifiers

FIFA has yet to take a decision on what to do about next month's World Cup play-off matches.

Russia host Poland in a play-off semi-final on March 24 and would then face the winner of the Sweden vs Czech Republic semi-final in Russia for a place in Qatar.

The federations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic issued a statement on Thursday insisting matches should not be played on Russian territory and demanding "alternative solutions" be found.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday his organisation would look at the matter with "urgency" but said he hoped the situation would be resolved by next month.

Ukraine are due to face Scotland at Hampden Park in a play-off semi-final on March 24, but that match is also in doubt with the Ukrainian league suspended following the invasion.

UEFA under pressure to cut ties with Gazprom

UEFA is under increasing pressure to cut ties with Russian state energy company Gazprom, after Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine.

Gazprom, which is majority-owned by the Russian government, is one of the major sponsors of European football's governing body.

Russia's attack on Ukraine entered its second day on Friday, with more than 130 people killed.

UEFA has had a sponsorship deal with Gazprom since 2012, and it spends about €40m a year backing the Champions League, European Championships and Nations League. It renewed its latest three-year deal last May.

The chief executive of Gazprom Neft Alexander Dyukov, also the president of the Russian Football Union, is on the UEFA executive committee.

The 27-strong executive committee also has a member from Ukraine - Andrii Pavelko, the president of the Ukraine Association of Football.

German club Schalke announced on Thursday that they were removing the Gazprom logo from their shirts.

Man Utd drop Aeroflot sponsorship

Manchester United have dropped their commercial partnership with Russian state airline Aeroflot following the invasion of Ukraine.

The UK government has banned Aeroflot from flying in its airspace and Civil Aviation Authority had suspended its foreign carrier permit.

A Manchester United spokesperson said: "In light of events in Ukraine, we have withdrawn Aeroflot's sponsorship rights."

"We share the concerns of our fans around the world and extend our sympathies to those affected."

Aeroflot has been United's official carrier since 2013, and they regularly fly to European games using the airline.

United did not use Aeroflot for their game at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. They changed their plans and used charter airline Titan Airways.

Players free to protest amid Ukraine crisis

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Various football teams and players have been showing their support for Ukraine, including Barcelona and Napoli, and Ukrainians Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ruslan Malinovskyi.

Players, fans and football clubs will be free to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, without fear of punishment from the FA, Premier League or EFL - so long as those displays are not offensive or overtly political.

As the governing body, it's the FA who has jurisdiction in these matters, and there are clear kit and advertising regulations that prohibit the use of threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting, discriminatory, political or religious messages.

But there is widespread feeling among officials displays of support for Ukraine should not be judged in this light.

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino says they have a duty to monitor the consequences of the Ukraine crisis on football.

It is not an offence to display a nation's flag on shirts or inside a stadium - and Sky Sports News has been told many clubs in the UK are considering adopting the Ukraine flag in some capacity during this weekend's matches, in a show of solidarity.

The FA considers issues such as this on a case-by-case basis, and given its support for initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, punishing messages of support for Ukraine's people would seem at odds with the organisation's overall ethos.

The FA took "a common sense approach" back in the summer of 2020, when it became clear large numbers of professional players wanted to take a knee in a show of unity against racial inequality, following the killing of George Floyd in America.

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Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev reacts to becoming world No 1 while his country is involved in conflict with Ukraine.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the time said the players "deserved applause" for the stance they took.

Similarly, football's authorities are not now expected to punish players or clubs who speak out on the situation in Eastern Europe.

Disciplinary action is expected only if an action is deemed offensive, provocative or overtly political.

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