Sports

Paris replaces Russia as venue for final

Russia has been stripped of hosting the Champions League final by UEFA St. Petersburg to be replaced by Paris amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The men’s final will still be held on May 28 but now at the 80,000-seat Stade de France after the decision by UEFA’s executive committee.

“UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic president Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

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“Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement.”

The meeting also decided that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams in UEFA competitions would be forced to play their fixtures elsewhere.

The Stade de France last hosted the Champions League final 16 years ago, when Barcelona beat Arsenal in the 2006 decider.

The 68,000-capacity St. Petersburg stadium was originally picked in 2019 to host the final in 2021. That was postponed by one year in the fallout of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stadium is named for Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom, which is also a top-tier UEFA sponsor of the Champions League and European Championship.

UEFA executive committee member Alexander Dyukov is the CEO of a Gazprom subsidiary.

The move comes as Russian bombs and troops pounded Ukraine during the invasion’s first full day, and world leaders began to fine-tune a response meant to punish the Russian economy and its leaders, including president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

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