Russia are stripped of the Champions League final | News, Sports, Jobs
By ROB HARRIS
AP Global Football Editor
LONDON — Ukraine’s invasion led to more punitive measures across the sporting world on Friday when Russia were stripped of the Champions League final in St Petersburg and Formula 1 dropped out of the Grand Prix of Russia in Sochi.
The International Olympic Committee has also urged sports federations to move their events out of Russia or Belarus, which Moscow uses as a staging ground for its troops moving into Ukraine from the north.
The IOC statement pointed to the ostracism of President Vladimir Putin, who generously funded sporting events and was still courted by IOC President Thomas Bach and FIFA President Gianni Infantino, despite the fact that the country has corrupted sport with state-sponsored doping programs over the past decade.
But the backlash against the adoption of Russian state-owned companies as sponsors in the sport has seen Manchester United abandon the Aeroflot trade deal. The English Premier League giants cited “events in Ukraine” after the airline was banned in Britain as part of sanctions against the Putin regime.
While UEFA is still working to remove Gazprom as a Champions League sponsor, the final will no longer take place at the Saint Petersburg stadium named after the Russian state energy company. The highlight of the European men’s football season will still be in Paris, still on May 28, but at the 80,000-seat Stade de France.
This follows talks led by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin which have involved the European Commission and French President Emmanuel Macron in recent days after concerns were raised about the status of Russia retaining such a prestigious event after its aggression against another European country.
UEFA thanked Macron for his “personal support and commitment to moving the most prestigious match in European club football to France at a time of unprecedented crisis”.
Alexander Dyukov, a Russian member of the UEFA executive committee, complained that the decision was made for “political reasons”. Dyukov also objected to UEFA ordering Russian clubs and national teams to play at neutral venues until further notice – a decision also imposed on Ukrainian teams.
The move came as Russian bombs and troops pounded Ukraine during the first full day of the invasion, and world leaders on Friday began to fine-tune a response meant to punish the Russian economy and its leaders, including Putin’s inner circle.
The IOC had already condemned Russia for violating the Olympic Truce, a few days after the end of the Winter Games in Beijing and before the Paralympic Games.
Russia’s name, flag and anthem are already barred from the March 4-13 Paralympic Games in Beijing due to previous doping disputes. His team is to compete under the name RPC, short for Russian Paralympic Committee.
Now the IOC is asking events not subject to WADA anti-doping sanctions to no longer display the Russian or Belarusian national flags or play their anthems.
The F1 race was only scheduled for September in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, but the management of the motorsports series decided it would be ‘impossible’ to stage the grand prix after discussions with the teams and the governing body of the FIA. The American team Haas also dropped sponsorship from Russian company Uralkali during pre-season testing in Barcelona. Nikita Mazepin de Haas is the only Russian driver on the F1 grid this season.
“We watch the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the current situation,” F1 said in a statement.
Sochi and St. Petersburg stand to lose tens of millions of dollars by losing the Champions League final and the Russian GP respectively. Champions League finals can generate over $50 million for host cities. There is also the non-monetary value of hosting major events, including increased tourism, more jobs, and better visibility and image on the world stage.
There is the unresolved question of Russia still set to host Poland in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Moscow. Poland wants the game out of Russia, but FIFA has yet to decide.
UEFA is also working with the French government to help rescue footballers and their families from Ukraine.
UEFA has two weeks before the next round of Champions League games to fix the issue of Gazprom adverts flashing around stadium pitches. Furthering the company’s close ties with UEFA, Dyukov is CEO of a Gazprom subsidiary and sits on European football’s highest decision-making body.
The Gazprom logo has already been removed this week from the jerseys of German club Schalke, but it remains a sponsor.
Outside of football, the International Ski Federation has announced that Russia will no longer stage its World Cup events this winter. The decision came after a far-fetched attempt to hold ski cross races Friday in the Urals resort of Sunny Valley a day after Russia began an invasion of Ukraine.
Only a handful of Russians took the start and dozens of riders from all other countries did not participate. The FIS cited “the safety of all participants and maintaining the integrity of the World Cup” for canceling five events scheduled for next month. Replacement locations are being sought.
The European Curling Championships due to be held in November in Perm, Russia, will also be moved, the sport’s international governing body announced on Friday after an emergency meeting of its board.
The International Tennis Federation has also indefinitely canceled all events taking place in Russia. The Dubai Championships on Friday saw Russian player Andrey Rublev write “No War Please” on a TV camera moments after winning a match.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine