The 2021-22 European showpiece is due to be staged at St Petersburg at the end of May, but could a change in location be on the cards?
What would the potential invasion of Ukraine mean for the 2021-22 Champions League final in Russia? GOAL is here to bring you everything you need to know.
The last time Russia staged the European showpiece was back in 2008, when Manchester United lifted the trophy following a penalty shootout victory at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The transcontinental country have been given hosting rights again for this season’s final, but it has been reported that the venue could yet be changed due to political tension.
Where is the final due to be staged?
The 2021-22 Champions League final is due to be staged at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg, which is the home ground of Russian giants Zenit.
The match will take place in the northern Russian city, which also played host to games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2020 UEFA European Championship, on May 28.
Why is there talk of a possible venue change?
It has been suggested that Russia will not be allowed to stage the Champions League final amid the threat of war with Ukraine.
According to U.S estimates, Russia has stationed 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders over the last few months on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.
The situation escalated on February 22 as Putin announced the recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states and moved soldiers into the two rebel-held regions.
What has been said?
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the following morning that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had begun.
“We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe,” Javid said on Sky News. “We’ve seen that he’s [Putin] recognised these breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and we can already tell he’s sent in tanks and troops, so I think from that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”
The British media has reported that Russia will likely have no choice but to give up the Champions League final as the situation continues to develop, but St Petersburg local organising committee chief Alexey Sorokin has insisted that the game will go ahead as planned.
“We do not pay attention to various comments from the British media,” Sorokin told TASS.
“We’ve been dealing with this for the last 15 years – since 2008, when something was supposedly going to be taken from us,” the official added, referring to when Russia held the Champions League final in Moscow in 2008.
“UEFA is a large international sports organisation, it operates outside a political context. The organising committee and UEFA haven’t had any discussions on this topic and can’t have any.
“We’re preparing for the final as planned. We’re awaiting the arrival of more than 50,000 foreign fans.”
What has UEFA said?
UEFA has confirmed that it is monitoring the situation but the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has called for them to act now in light of Putin’s latest move.
DCMS select committee chairman, Julian Knight, told the Telegraph: “It’s something that must be considered given this naked act of aggression.
“To host such a landmark event as the Russian tanks roll sends out all the wrong messages.”