St. Petersburg is Stripped of Champions League Final

St. Petersburg is Stripped of Champions League Final


UEFA decided to move the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris. FC Spartak Moscow will have to host RB Leipzig in the Europa League 1/8 finals on a neutral ground. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia has been canceled in Sochi. Helsingin Jokerit declined to participate in the KHL playoffs.

At an extraordinary meeting on February 25, UEFA decided to move the Champions League final, which is scheduled for May 28, from St. Petersburg to Paris at the Stade de France despite the claims of London, which hosted the critical match of the main European club tournament last year. The Wembley stadium was offered after Lisbon could not host the finals with spectators in the stands because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Russian Football Union (RFU), this decision was made due to political reasons. The President of the Russian Football Union Alexander Dyukov, who heads the Gazpromneft corporation, underlined that the RFU adheres to the principle that “politics should be kept out of the sport,” so it cannot support the UEFA verdict.

Alas, all the efforts and preparations of St. Petersburg went in vain. The degree of preparation for the climax of the European club season was very high, said Alexei Sorokin, the chair of the organizing committee of the Champions League final. There is no possibility to appeal against this decision to CAS because UEFA reserves the right to apply such sanctions unilaterally, as spelled out in the relevant documents.

UEFA also decided to hold home matches of Russian and Ukrainian clubs in European competitions on neutral fields. The measure does not concern the World Cup-2022 match against Poland as this is under the supervision of FIFA, which intends to consider the issue this week.

On February 25, Spartak Moscow got RB Leipzig as a rival, coached by Domenico Tedesco, the former coach of the FC Spartak Moscow, in the Europa League 1/8 finals. Alas, Moscow fans will see the much-loved German coach only on TV. The first match will take place on March 10, and the return matches a week later.

“Minsk is the best option for a neutral field,” Aleksandr Mostovoy told “It has a good stadium, and for the fans that miss Tedesco it is easy to get there.”

UEFA may prohibit the presence of spectators on a neutral field, as in the case of the Belarusian clubs that played in the Europe League in Kazan. One way or another, FC Spartak Moscow positively reacted to such an option.

The day before the Russian champion Zenit Saint Petersburg could not take revenge on Real Betis Balompié for the home defeat 2:3 in the re-match of the 1/16 finals of the Europa League. In Seville, the guests nearly put the game into overtime in front of 45,000 spectators. They held the initiative and scored in the final minute but the goal was canceled out following the referee's visit to the monitor on the VAR recommendation. It turned out that in the penalty area of the hosts' Alexander Erokhin, who came on as a substitute, accidentally stepped on the foot of the Spanish defender. It was the contact that did not affect the outcome of the episode. As a result, it was a 0-0 draw. Zenit showed a solid performance, and specialists assessed it as the best one in European competitions under Sergey Semak.

On February 26, after a winter break, the national soccer championship resumes. Spartak Moscow vs CSKA derby took place at Otkritie Arena in Moscow, of course, with spectators. Five more matches will take place, including Khimki vs Dynamo, Sochi vs Arsenal, Zenit vs Rubin, Nizhny Novgorod vs the Ural, and Amat vs Ufa. Rostov vs Krylia Sovetov and Krasnodar vs Lokomotiv have been postponed.

Unfortunately, Helsingin Jokerit has withdrawn from the Gagarin Cup playoffs under the oppression of the authorities and the refusal of one of the club's sponsors to cooperate. Who will replace the team from Helsinki? The Cup round started as early as Tuesday, March 1. They were supposed to compete with Spartak Moscow.

This week, the board of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) intends to discuss the situation with the youth and adult world championships, which should host Novosibirsk/Omsk and St. Petersburg in 2023, respectively. Super arenas are being built there at full speed.

At last, Formula 1 has officially notified about the cancellation of the Grand Prix of Russia this year, which was supposed to be held in Sochi from 23 to 25 September. From 2023 the annual motor racing event will have to be held at the Igora Drive track in the Leningrad region.

P.S. The skiing, freestyle, and ski jumping World Cup events scheduled to take place in Russia this season have been canceled. Tyumen was scheduled to host the final round of the FIS Cross Country World Cup from 18 to 20 March. The freestyle competitions were supposed to be held in the Chelyabinsk Region on February 26 and 27, and the participants were to leave the Solnechnaya Dolina ski resort.

Moreover, Erik Roeste, President of the Ski Federation of Norway, said that this week the question of the Russian skiers’ participation in Holmenkollen at the World Cup stage on March 4-6 would be raised.

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