Russia stripped of Champions League final and Grand Prix after Ukraine invasion

International sport has begun to turn its back on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, with two high-profile events pulled from the country on Friday.

May’s Champions League soccer final has been moved from Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, to Paris as world motorsport governing body the FIA ​​announced that the Grand Prix of September’s Formula 1 Russia had been cancelled.

The decisions were welcomed by the UK government, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries saying: “Our message is clear: Russia must not be able to legitimize its heinous and barbaric attack on Ukraine by hosting sporting events and international cultures”.

The International Olympic Committee also called on global sports federations on Friday afternoon to cancel or move any future events they plan to hold in Russia or Belarus.

Manchester United have ended their commercial relationship with Russian national airline Aeroflot while UEFA are said to be discussing with their lawyers how to sever ties with Russian energy company Gazprom, one of the main sponsors of the Champions League .

UEFA were expected to move their showpiece club game from St Petersburg – the hometown of Russian President Vladimir Putin – following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, and the switch to Stade de France in Paris has been confirmed as an emergency. executive committee meeting on Friday morning.

“UEFA would like to express its thanks and gratitude to French President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to relocating the most prestigious match in European club football to France at a time of unprecedented crisis,” read a statement from UEFA. the governing body of European football.

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

UEFA has also announced that all Russian or Ukrainian clubs and national teams involved in its competitions will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice, a decision which will affect Russian club Spartak Moscow who will face German club RB Leipzig in Europe. League last 16.

This does not apply to next month’s World Cup play-offs, which fall under FIFA’s jurisdiction and are between Russia and Ukraine. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Thursday the matter was being looked into urgently.

The Russian Grand Prix, which was due to take place on September 25, was canceled due to the invasion.

“The FIA ​​Formula 1 World Championship visits countries around the world with a positive vision of uniting people, bringing nations together,” an FIA statement read.

“We watch the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a quick and peaceful resolution of the current situation.

“On Thursday evening, Formula 1, the FIA ​​and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the views of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to organize the Grand Russian price in the current circumstances.”

The IOC Executive Board has urged global sports federations to cancel or move all events they plan to hold in Russia, as well as in Belarus, which provided assistance to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. .

“They should take into account the violation of the Olympic truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments and give top priority to the safety and security of athletes,” an IOC statement said.

Watford boss Roy Hodgson said the decision to move the Champions League final would have been among the easiest UEFA have ever had to make, and said he hoped sporting sanctions would have a small impact.

The former England manager said: “To see the sporting family in the world have turned against them in this way and robbed them of something they’ve been looking forward to, I’m sure it has a certain effect.

“It’s one more action that people can take that will at least show Russia and President Putin once again that people in the Western world just don’t agree with what’s going on with his invasion of Ukraine.”

Manchester United have announced their withdrawal from a sponsorship deal with Aeroflot.

The airline had been a business partner of the Premier League club since 2013 and regularly flew United to away matches in Europe.

The Gazprom logo has been a regular sight at Champions League matches across Europe in recent years (Isabel Infantes/PA)

(PA wire)

However, the Red Devils flew with charter airline Titan Airways for the Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid and have now severed ties with Aeroflot, who have been banned from flying into the UK by the UK government. as part of a set of sanctions imposed on Russia.

Russian energy giant Gazprom is also set to be dropped as a Champions League sponsor, with UEFA expected to discuss with its lawyers a way out of its deal.

Ukrainian footballers, understandably anxious and upset about what is happening in their home country, have been offered support from their English clubs.

Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko attended a protest in the city on Thursday night, and Blues boss Pep Guardiola said: “How would we feel if in our country where we were born and have family and friends, innocent people were killed?

Oleksandr Zinchenko attended a protest against Russia’s invasion of his country in Manchester city center on Thursday evening (Martin Rickett/PA)

(PA wire)

“Of course the team and the club are close to him, unconditionally.”

Everton are offering their backing to defender Vitalii Mykolenko, while West Ham manager David Moyes has said his Ukraine star Andriy Yarmolenko has been granted time off.

Moyes said: “It’s a really difficult time for him and his family and we respect that.

“I spoke to him in training on Thursday and he was upset as you can imagine and rightly so and we just hope that everything goes well and that all of his family members and immediate family stay safe. “

Britain’s Basketball World Cup qualifier against Belarus in Newcastle on Monday has been postponed.

The two sides were due to meet in Minsk on Friday. But world governing body FIBA ​​postponed the game on Thursday after Britain said it would not travel to the region.

The interim president of the British Basketball Federation, Toni Minichiello, said: “We thank FIBA ​​for all their help and for understanding our concerns regarding the trip to Minsk.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the BBF Board, Team GB staff and the players for coming together and presenting a unified position. The safety of our players and staff is and always will be our priority.”

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