International sporting bodies have stated they will ‘closely monitor’ the situation in Ukraine, following Russia’s military invasion this morning.
After months of tension, Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s northern, eastern and southern borders, whilst there have been reports of explosions close to major cities.
In the aftermath, UEFA has called an emergency meeting to debate whether St Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena – the home of Zenit St Petersburg and sponsored by Russian state-majority owned energy firm Gazprom – should continue as host venue of the 2021/22 Champions League final.
A UEFA statement read: “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 10:00 CET, in order to evaluate the situation and take all necessary decisions.”
FIFA has also called a meeting, whilst European Union (EU) officials are apparently calling on UEFA to move the Champions League final, scheduled for 28 May, from Russian territory.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also weighed in, stating that there is “no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries”.
Speaking to Reuters, Karl-Erik Nilsson, Chairman of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), said that a match hosted in Vladmir Putin’s country is ‘almost unthinkable’ following the military actions this morning, which have prompted widespread international condemnation.
Meanwhile, football sponsorship arrangements also hang in the balance, as separate reports indicate that Manchester United is prepared to sever its arrangement with Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot.
The Premier League side did not fly with the airline to its Champions League away game against Atletico Madrid, instead flying with British charter company Titan Airways.
Aeroflot and Manchester United have been partners since 2013 and the agreement was extended in 2017, reportedly worth around £40 million. The deal was up for renewal in April, but the Mirror has now reported that Red Devils CEO Richard Arnold does not intend to follow through.
However, both BT Sport and DAZN have stated that they are contractually obliged to continue showcasing advertisements for Gazprom, which is a sponsor of the Champions League, as part of their coverage.
On the club level, German side FC Schalke 04 has removed the terminated its agreement with the company, which deals in the distribution of natural gas – and has played a central role in the several gas disputes between Russia and Ukraine since the 2000s.
Instead of featuring Gazprom’s logo, the Bundesliga team will instead place lettering reading ‘Schalke O4’ on the its jerseys instead, following discussions with Gazprom Germania.