The Union of European Football Associations, UEFA finally decided on Friday to move the 2022 Champions League final from Saint Petersburg to Saint-Denis in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
UEFA had initially stated that there were no plans to change the venue, but that it was constantly and closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.
While Western governments called for the final to be moved, several members of the European Parliament also wrote to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin urging the European football governing body to terminate cooperation with Russian gas giant Gazprom sponsorship.
Following the invasion, pressure mounted on UEFA to act, which led to calling an extraordinary meeting of its Executive Committee on Friday morning.
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, an official release indicated. The game will be played as initially scheduled on Saturday 28 May at 21:00 CET.
UEFA thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his help in having European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis.
With UEFA's competitions ongoing and member countries set to be in action during the international break at the end of March, the Executive Committee also announced 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 Kremlin was quick to reply arguing it was a pity Saint Petersburg was stripped of the right to host the final. It is a shame that such a decision was made, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Saint Petersburg could have provided the best possible conditions for holding this football event.
As to the giant 100% Russian state owned Gazprom sponsorship of UEFA Champions League as a premium partner since 2012, the two entities last year signed a new and more extensive three-year contract that included sponsorship of the European Championships in 2021 and 2024 and the Nations League finals in 2021 and 2023. UEFA did not disclose the financial scope of the sponsorship.
Gazprom has proven to be one of our most trusted partners over the years, and we are delighted to welcome the company as a UEFA national team sponsor for the first time, UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein said at the time.
But not only UEFA has had to drop such a lucrative sponsor, German second division Schalke is also in trouble since it is supported bythe German subsidiary of Gazprom and have admitted to be following events in Ukraine with great concern.
Schalke will observe and evaluate further developments and strongly appeal for peace, to protect the people affected by the crisis, a statement from the club said.
The sponsorship started in 2007 under the club's former president, and was recently extended to 2025, in what was considered a record deal for a Bundesliga 2 side.
As a result, the club celebrated their 15-year relationship with their loyal and reliable partner and have even featured adverts for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline at the VELTINS Arena.
Calls for them to terminate their lucrative deal have resulted in the club announcing a decision on Thursday to remove the Gazprom sponsoring from their kits with immediate effect.