(REUTERS, AFP) - Uefa has moved this year's Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, European football's governing body said in a statement on Friday (Feb 25).
It also said that the home games of Ukrainian and Russian club and national teams competing in Uefa competitions will be played at neutral venues "until further notice".
The governing body thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his “personal support and commitment” in taking on the final.
It added that it would “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 news of venue change has provided added incentive for Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday as the Ligue 1 giants aim to lift the trophy for the first time.
“For me personally it is an extra source of motivation. It is exciting to have the possibility of hosting the final in Paris at the Stade de France,” Pochettino told reporters.
“We hope to be lucky enough to take part in it. It would be incredible for us to be able to be there, but we have a lot of work in front of us before that.”
PSG beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie earlier this month, with the return to come in Spain on March 9.
The current Ligue 1 leaders have never won European club football’s biggest prize but did reach the final in 2020, losing to Bayern Munich in Lisbon.
The Champions League final was set to be staged at the home of Russian club Zenit St Petersburg, the Gazprom Arena, on May 28 with thousands of supporters from across the continent expected to attend the showcase match in European club football.
The St Petersburg stadium is known as the Gazprom Arena following a sponsorship deal with Russia’s state energy company, which also sponsors the Champions League and Uefa’s Euro 2024 national team competition.
The move to strip St Petersburg of the final follows calls from a group of European lawmakers who asked Uefa on Thursday to change the venue and stop considering Russian cities for major international football competitions.
The lawmakers also asked the organisation to end Gazprom’s sponsorship of the continent’s elite club competition. Friday’s Uefa statement made no mention of Gazprom, however.
The 2023 Champions League final is set to be contested in Istanbul with Wembley in London hosting the following year and Munich’s Allianz Arena the venue for the final in 2025.
Fifa, the global football body, may now move to force Russia to play their World Cup qualifying play-off against Poland on March 24 on neutral ground.
Spartak Moscow, in the Europa League, are the only club from either Russia or Ukraine still involved in European competition this season.