Saint Petersburg has been stripped of the Champions League final in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Paris given the showpiece event instead.
UEFA confirmed European club football’s showpiece occasion on Saturday, May 28 will be moved to Paris from the Gazprom Arena in the Russian city after an emergency meeting of its executive committee was convened this morning.
Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday with troops attacking the country from the north, east and south, inflicting enormous damage to military installations and civilian casualties.
Four Premier League clubs remain in the competition at the last-16 stage with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City taking leads into next month’s second leg ties and Manchester United level with Atletico Madrid.
Paris’ Stade de France, which last held the Champions League final 16 years ago when Barcelona beat Arsenal, will now play host to the European showpiece at the end of the football season.
‘The UEFA Executive Committee today held an extraordinary meeting following the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe,’ a UEFA statement on Friday read.
‘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 9pm CET (8pm BST).
The 2022 Champions League final will now be held at the Stade de France in Paris after UEFA stripped Russia of the showpiece following invasion of Ukraine
The 65,000-capacity Gazprom Arena was due to host this season’s showpiece event
‘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.’
Russian and Ukrainian club and national teams will also play home games at neutral venues, UEFA also announced.
‘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 statement continued.
‘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.’
Sportsmail reported on Thursday that West Ham’s owners would have been interested in staging the final at their 62,500-capacity home.
Wembley – which holds 90,000 spectators – was an option but the stadium is set to hold the Championship and League Two play-off finals on the same weekend.
West Ham’s London Stadium did emerge as a contender to host the Champions League final
Wembley and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (above) were also in the running to host
The national stadium is also set to host the ‘Finalissima’ between Italy and Argentina – the reigning champions of Europe and South America respectively – on June 1.
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – capacity 62,850 – or West Ham’s home had no such concerns with scheduling but France’s capital was selected as the new venue on Friday.
The news comes with Russian troops set to arrive in Kyiv today and fighting already in the outskirts of the city, an official said.
Natali Sevriukova, a resident of Kyiv, is pictured weeping on the streets of Kyiv after a Russian rocket strike destroyed the apartment block where she lives overnight
Firemen pick their way through the rubble of a destroyed apartment in Kyiv, as President Zelensky said the Russian military is now targeting civilian areas
A man dressed in camouflage takes a picture of a crater where a Russian rocket landed, destroying part of an apartment block in Kyiv which is now under heavy attack
UKRAINE WAR: LATEST
- Ukraine says Russia has bombed 33 civilian sites in Kyiv in the last 24 hours
- Two children have been reported killed in Kyiv bombing overnight
- Russia is deploying paratroopers to Chernobyl after capturing it yesterday, Moscow said
- Ukraine reported ‘anomalous’ radiation levels at the plant amid fears nuclear storage was breached in fighting, but Moscow said readings are normal
- Russia claims to have destroyed 118 Ukrainian military sites in 30 hours of fighting
- PM Boris Johnson pledged more support is coming to Ukraine in the coming days
- Johnson shared a phone call with Zelensky on Friday morning
US intelligence warned of a plan to seize an airport, fly in troops, and ‘decapitate’ the government.
Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the country’s interior minister, said Friday will be the war’s ‘hardest day’ as Russia armour pushes down from Chernihiv – to the north-east of the capital – and Ivankiv – to the north-west – in an attempt to encircle the city, where President Volodymyr Zelensky is still holed up.
The US warned tanks were fighting Ukrainian forces 20 miles from the city early Friday, before clashes were reported in a northern district of the capital just a few hours later. The fighting appeared to be taking place in Obolon, with the ministry of defence urging residents to make Molotov cocktails to hurl at Russian tanks.
Once the city is surrounded, US intelligence believes the plan will be for Russian special forces to move in and seize an airport – likely Sikorsky or Boryspil – which would then be used to fly in a much larger force of up to 10,000 paratroopers who would assault the capital.
The job of the paratroopers would be to enter the city, find Zelensky, his ministers, and parliamentarians, before forcing them to sign a peace deal handing control of the country back to Russia or a Moscow-backed puppet regime – effectively ending the war without Putin’s ground forces going to the difficult and bloody trouble of seizing and occupying the whole country.
It appears the Russians almost pulled off the plan on Day 1 of the invasion when 20 attack helicopters landed a crack team of troops at Antonov Airport, 15 miles to the north of Kyiv, where they spent the day fighting.
But Ukrainian national guard units managed to retake the landing strip overnight, scattering the surviving Russian attackers into the surrounding countryside.
UEFA – president Aleksander Ceferin pictured – came under pressure to reconsider final venue
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