The Champions League final could be dramatically relocated to Wembley from St Petersburg as UEFA discuss options for the showpiece as the threat of war looms large in Europe.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into east Ukraine has caused a political storm that European football’s most prestigious competition now finds itself at the centre of.
The Champions League final is scheduled to take place at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg on May 28. But according to the reports, UEFA bosses ‘would be left with no choice but to switch venues’ if Putin continues with his military aggression.
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And that decision could open the door for 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium to be utilised as a last minute venue to host the final, which could potentially feature Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United. Wembley has been the chosen venue for two previous finals – 2011 and 2013- which were won by Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.
One option being considered by UEFA is to wait until the semi-finals are played and then to choose the venue that is most convenient for both finalists. Last season UEFA moved its showpiece event at only a few weeks’ notice when they relocated the final from Istanbul to Porto.
Julian Knight, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, has called on Uefa to act now. “It’s something that must be considered given this naked act of aggression,” he told The Telegraph. “To host such a landmark event as the Russian tanks roll sends out all the wrong messages.”
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“Uefa should urgently reconsider the decision to hold the Champions League final in Russia following Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine,” former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said. “Uefa is constantly and closely monitoring the situation,” Uefa said in a statement. “At present, there are no plans to change the venue.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting this morning after the Russian president ordered his long-feared invasion under the guise of peace-keeping.
But UEFA played down chances that Wembley could be called upon to host the final. “UEFA is constantly and closely monitoring the situation,” said a statement on Monday. “At present, there are no plans to change the venue.”