Russia risks hosting the Champions League final against Ukraine

UEFA officials have held discussions about the impact of Russia’s deep involvement in Ukraine on whether the Champions League final can still be held in St Petersburg.

The final of European football is scheduled to take place in the Russian city on May 28, the biggest sporting event in the country since the 2018 World Cup.

UEFA has not issued a new statement since fears of a full-fledged Russian invasion of Ukraine were raised after Moscow announced on Monday that its recognition of the independence of regions in eastern Ukraine extends to territory currently controlled by Ukrainian forces.

UEFA said at the weekend that it was “constantly and closely monitoring the situation” and had no plans to change the final venue. But someone familiar with the situation said the Ukraine crisis was discussed by high-ranking UEFA officials on Tuesday, including its president, Aleksander Ceferin, the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss talks to assess the geopolitical situation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated in the House of Commons that Russia should not conduct such a competition.

Johnson warned that “Russia is more isolated. A pariah Russia … there is no chance of holding football tournaments in Russia that invades sovereign countries.”

UEFA had to move the Champions League final in the past two seasons, both times from Turkey to Portugal due to the pandemic. A full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine would dramatically alter UEFA’s belief that the final could still be played in St Petersburg.

With four representatives in the round of 16, England have the largest number of teams remaining in the Champions League. Tom Tugendhat, chair of the British Parliament’s foreign affairs committee in the House of Commons, has called on UEFA to take the finalist out of Russia.