UEFA to hold emergency meeting over Russian invasion of Ukraine

AFP , Thursday 24 Feb 2022

UEFA are to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to "evaluate the situation" concerning Russia's invasion of Ukraine with the former set to host the Champions League final in Saint Petersburg in May.

People attend a demonstration in front of the Russian embassy in Oslo, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee. AP

"Following the evolution of the situation between Russia and Ukraine in the last 24 hours, the UEFA president has decided to call an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee for Friday 25 February at 10:00 CET (0900 GMT), in order to evaluate the situation and take all necessary decisions," UEFA said in a statement.

The final of European club football's premier competition is scheduled to be played on May 28 at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, which already hosted several matches at last year's European Championship and at the 2018 World Cup held in Russia.

European football's governing body has a major sponsorship deal with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Russia had "no chance" of holding European football's showpiece game if it invaded Ukraine.

"A Russia that has pariah status -- no chance of holding a football tournament in a Russia that invades sovereign countries," Johnson said.

There are currently four English Premier League clubs still involved in the last 16 of this season's Champions League, including Chelsea and Manchester City, who contested last season's final in Porto, Portugal.

UEFA has already moved the last two Champions League finals due to the pandemic from Istanbul to Lisbon in 2020, and then again from the Turkish city to Porto last year.

The Champions League final was last staged in Russia in 2008, when Manchester United defeated Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.

Zenit Saint Petersburg, the reigning Russian champions and current league leaders, are still involved in UEFA competition this season and are due to play Real Betis in Spain in the Europa League on Thursday.

The Ukrainian league, which was due to resume this weekend after its long winter break, has been suspended.

"We'll withstand it," posted Shakhtar Donetsk, the 13-time Ukrainian champions who have been exiled from their already war-torn home city for eight years, on Twitter with a picture of the Ukrainian flag.

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