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06 Oct 2022

UEFA calls extraordinary meeting amid pressure to move Champions League final

UEFA calls extraordinary meeting amid pressure to move Champions League final

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has called an extraordinary meeting for Friday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The PA news agency understands contingency plans are being drawn up over where to host this season’s Champions League final, which had been awarded to Russia.

The final is scheduled to take place in St Petersburg’s 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena on May 28 but Russia’s attack looks likely to force a change of venue.

European football’s governing body is monitoring the situation and said it will “take all necessary decisions” after Friday’s meeting.

A UEFA statement said: “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 1000 CET (0900 GMT), in order to evaluate the situation and take all necessary decisions.

“Further communication will be made after the meeting of the UEFA executive committee.”

Football Supporters Europe had called for an “imminent announcement” over arrangements for the showpiece game.

“On this tragic day, our thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine, our friends, colleagues, members, & their loved ones,” an FSE statement on Twitter read.

“Given the events unfolding, we expect an imminent announcement from UEFA on the relocation of the Champions League final from St Petersburg.”

After changing the venue for the final for the 2020 and 2021 editions due to the coronavirus pandemic, UEFA could be forced into a further switch, but may wait until the latter stages of the competition to see which sides remain in the tournament.

If another all-English final was to occur, like last year’s between Chelsea and Manchester City, there would be pressure to host it in the UK but two major stadiums are already out of bounds.

Wembley is set to host the Sky Bet Championship play-off final on May 28 while the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is primed to stage rugby league’s Betfred Challenge Cup final on the same day.

It may open the door to another venue in England’s capital, West Ham’s London Stadium, which would have space in its summer schedule.

London Stadium chief executive Graham Gilmore told the Telegraph: “We have a great history of putting on world-class events from Major League Baseball to sold-out concerts and of course Premier League matches.

“We are always happy to hear from event holders, and there is a clear track record of the stadium and London hosting the biggest events brilliantly.”

Holders Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week told the House of Commons Russia should have “no chance of holding football tournaments”.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine Premier League was set to end its winter break on Saturday but a suspension of the division has occurred following Russia’s attack.

Football in the country stopped on December 13 and will remain paused, which could have a knock-on effect for preparations for next month’s World Cup qualifier with Scotland in Glasgow on March 24.

“Due to the imposition of martial law in Ukraine, the championship of Ukraine has been suspended,” a statement from the Ukraine Premier League read.

Ukraine are due to face the Republic of Ireland home and away in the Nations League in June, and the Football Association of Ireland has confirmed it is in ongoing contact with the Irish Government, UEFA and its Ukrainian counterparts.

An FAI statement read: “The FAI will continue to communicate on an ongoing basis with our Government, our colleagues at UEFA and the Ukraine Association of Football with regards to the latest developments and the implications for the Ukraine v Republic of Ireland fixture in the UEFA Nations League, currently fixed for Lviv on Tuesday, June 14th.

“The FAI will also welcome Ukraine to Dublin on June 4th for the opening fixture in the UEFA Nations League campaign. The FAI awaits the outcome of the UEFA ExCo meeting on Friday, February 25th which has been called to discuss the current situation in the Ukraine.”

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