UEFA has moved this year’s Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European soccer’s governing body said in a statement on Friday.
UEFA also said the home games of Ukrainian and Russian club and national teams competing 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 on the final.
It added that it would “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”.
The Champions League final was set to be staged at Zenit St Petersburg’s stadium on May 28 with thousands of supporters from across the continent expected to attend the showcase match in European club soccer.
Kremlin spokesperson 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.”
UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who is responsible for sport, backed the UEFA decision.
“I welcome UEFA’s decisive action to strip St Petersburg of staging this year’s Champions League final.
“Russia must not be allowed to exploit sporting and cultural events on the world stage to legitimise its unprovoked, premeditated and needless attack against a sovereign democratic state.”
The St Petersburg stadium is known as the Gazprom Stadium following a sponsorship deal with Russia’s state energy company, which also sponsors the Champions League and UEFA’s Euro 2024 national team competition.
The move to strip St Petersburg of the final follows calls from a group of European lawmakers who asked UEFA on Thursday to change the venue and stop considering Russian cities for major international soccer competitions.
The lawmakers 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.
The 2023 Champions League final is set to be contested in Istanbul with Wembley in London hosting the following year and Munich’s Allianz Arena the venue for the final in 2025.