European lawmakers are preparing a letter to ask Europe’s football governing body UEFA not to host the final of its most prestigious competition next May in St Petersburg, Russia.
The letter, addressed to UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin with UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoris in copy, was initiated by German Greens MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel and other lawmakers have until 4 pm tomorrow (23 February) to co-sign it before the formal submission.
A draft of the letter, obtained by EURACTIV.com, called on Čeferin and UEFA “to take appropriate and consistent action” after the most recent political developments in Ukraine.
The final of the Champions League, the most prestigious football tournament organised by UEFA, is due to be played in St Petersburg next 28 May in the Krestovsky Stadium, also known as Gazprom Arena for sponsorship reasons.
“In the light of the serious international situation following Putin’s recognition of the Donbas and the invasion of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory, it is clear that the city of St Petersburg will not be able to host the Champions League final on 22 May,” the letter read.
Apart from choosing an alternative venue for the Champions League final “as a first and a very urgent step”, MEPs also asked Europe’s football governing body not to consider any other Russian city as a venue for international football competitions.
“Russia must show the whole world that it cares about the values of sport, brotherhood, cooperation and respect and let diplomacy prevail. It is never too late,” commented Italian MEP Tiziana Beghin, head of Italy’s Five Star Movement delegation in Brussels and one of the co-signatories of the letter.
Lawmakers also targeted the controversial relationship with UEFA and Gazprom, the Russia-owned energy company that has been one of the main sponsors of the Champions League tournament since 2012.
In the draft letter, MEPs asked UEFA to terminate the cooperation with Gazprom as UEFA sponsor, as well as consider sanctions against individual Russian officials who are complicit in the violations of international law.
In a tweet, the initiator of the letter von Cramon suggested that also Schalke 04, the German football club of the Gelsenkirchen city, should quit its long-standing Gazprom sponsorship too.
“Dependence on Russian money is a big problem – also in sports. We are politically vulnerable and open to blackmail,” she wrote.
Wann verabschiedet sich #Schalke endlich vom #Gazprom Sponsoring? Verantwortliche im Verein sind gefragt, schnell zu handeln. Abhängigkeit vom russischen Geld ist ein großes Problem- auch im Sport. Wir sind politisch verletzlich und erpressbar. https://t.co/qLURAd3FXX
— Viola von Cramon (@ViolavonCramon) February 22, 2022
“UEFA must act now and cannot continue to provide a stage and thus legitimacy to this regime,” concluded the letter.
Contacted by EURACTIV, a UEFA spokesperson said that the football governing body cannot comment on a draft letter until has been sent.
In a statement, UEFA said it is “constantly and closely monitoring the situation and any decision would be made in due course if necessary,” but “at present, there are no plans to change the venue.”
According to the latest reporting from the BBC and ESPN, however, UEFA is seriously considering the possibility of moving the final from Russia.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]