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The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on football: What’s Next for FIFA & UEFA After the Champions League Final Switch

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, UEFA has decided to shift the 2022 Champions League final from Saint Petersburg to a different location.

The decision occurred following an emergency meeting of the European governing body’s executive committee, as the athletic world continues to react to Vladimir Putin’s regime’s military action.

However, the effects on other events are already being felt, and FIFA, the world governing body, has been forced to intervene.

Here’s a rundown of the steps taken thus far, along with any additional challenges that the football authorities may face.

Russia’s army has invaded Ukraine. Action by UEFA
The UEFA action did not end with the Russian city of Saint Petersburg losing the privilege to host the 2022 Champions League final. (The championship game will be held in the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, on May 28.)

The president of the Russian Football Union objected to the move, and a Kremlin official called it “a tragedy that such a decision has been made,” but UEFA has implemented further measures. The executive committee will also demand that the lone Russian club still competing in the European club competition find a neutral location for its matches.

Spartak Moscow is the last Russian or Ukrainian team left competing in a European club event, having been drawn to play RB Leipzig of Germany in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League. However, due to the UEFA executive committee’s decision, Spartak will have to play the home leg of that series on March 17 at a neutral stadium.

The ruling affects all Russian and Ukrainian clubs still competing in European competition, but it solely affects Spartak, which “shall be obliged to play their home matches at neutral stadiums until further notice,” according to a UEFA statement.

World Cup qualifiers for Russia and Ukraine
The UEFA resolution to require “national teams competing in UEFA competitions” to select a neutral location also applies to club teams engaging in international competition.

The UEFA Nations League is an example of this, with matches scheduled for June 2022. Ukraine has four matches scheduled, including two at home against Armenia (June 11) and the Republic of Ireland (June 12). (June 14). Among Russia’s four games at that time frame are home matches versus Iceland (June 10) and Albania (June 11). (June 13).

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However, both countries’ national teams will compete in the European playoffs in March for the remaining slots to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. FIFA has stated that “updates in respect to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be notified in due course.”

Both Russia and Ukraine must win two games slated for late March if they are to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. They will be eliminated from contention in Qatar 2022 if they lose any of them.

Ukraine was already set to play both of those matches on the road — a win in Scotland on March 24 would set up a road meeting against Wales or Austria on March 29 for a World Cup berth. Russia was set to host both of its matches: one against Poland (March 24) and a probable second match against the Czech Republic or Sweden if they won the first (March 29).

It’s still unclear whether Russia and Ukraine will be able to field teams for these games. Poland has already stated that it would not play Russia, and its star forward, Robert Lewandowski, has stated his country’s position:

The most recent news from Russia’s Premier League and Ukraine’s Premier League
Unsurprisingly, the crisis has had a major influence on football in Ukraine and Russia.

The Ukrainian Premier League, which was scheduled to return on February 25 following a winter break, has been postponed until further notice due to current events in the country.

The suspension, however, does not apply exclusively to Ukraine’s top flight. Ukraine’s football association has decided to “halt all football events in all age groups at the national, regional, district, and city levels throughout Ukraine until a separate decision is reached on this subject.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Premier League continues as planned, with the official league website confirming the weekend games scheduled for February 26-28. There are two postponements on that list, albeit no formal reasons for the adjustments have been supplied. Some speculate that it has something to do with the closing of local airports in such locations.

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The Russian league is also making its comeback after a winter vacation.

Ukraine wants Russia and Russian club teams to be banned.
The Ukrainian football authorities want to see the regulatory organizations take stronger action against Russian and Russian clubs.

The Ukrainian Federation just issued a statement outlining certain immediate changes that they would want to see implemented.

The UAF Executive Committee has campaigned for the Russian national team and club teams to be barred from competing in any FIFA or UEFA sanctioned football competition.

In light of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the UAF Executive Committee decided:

– to send suitable requests to FIFA and UEFA forbidding Russian national teams and clubs from competing in any international competitions under FIFA and UEFA’s aegis;

– File an appeal with UEFA as soon as possible on the decision to change the city and country of the UEFA Champions League final in 2021/2022 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2023.

Sponsors from Russia are receiving criticism.
Two Russian corporations, in particular, have been scrutinized: Gazprom, the Russian energy company, and Aeroflot, the Russian airline.

In response to Russia’s invasion, German club Schalke has removed Gazprom’s jersey-front insignia, and UEFA is under pressure to cancel its sponsorship relationship with the firm, including from European Parliament members.

Gazprom has partnership rights for the UEFA Nations League 2023 and UEFA Euro 2024 competitions and has been a major sponsor of the UEFA Champions League since 2012.

Meanwhile, the UK government has taken steps to prohibit Aeroflot from operating in its territory, and Manchester United has ended its $53 million sponsorship arrangement with the company:

“We have withdrawn Aeroflot’s sponsorship rights in light of developments in Ukraine,” United said in a statement. “We share our fans’ concerns around the world and offer our condolences to those who have been harmed.”

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The impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on players and owners
With the transfer window not opening again until the summer, it’s too early to say whether the Russian or Ukrainian leagues will impose any limits on the players their clubs are allowed to sign.

Due to difficult relations between the two nations at the time, former Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko restricted domestic Russian clubs from recruiting Turkish players in 2015.

The more immediate impact could be felt by Russian oligarchs who own stakes in international clubs and who may be subjected to penalties imposed by governments aiming to exert pressure on Russia by targeting Putin’s supporters.

The attention is on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who is the subject of conjecture about how he would be affected by prospective UK government actions to crack down on oligarchs with influence over Russian political leaders.

Because of Abramovich’s high-profile ties to the Russian state and Putin, members of the UK Parliament have asked for his assets to be taken.

Will the UEFA Super Cup be moved again in 2023?
If the conflict is not resolved, UEFA may be forced to make another big decision soon.

The 2023 UEFA Super Cup is set to be contested in Kazan, Russia, and another venue switch, similar to the Champions League, could be in the works.

The Super Cup puts the winner of the Champions League against the winner of the Europa League, and it is usually staged in August as the first piece of continental trophy up for grabs each season.

In an official message made on February 24, the Ukrainian federation requested that UEFA reconsider canceling the Super Cup hosting rights.

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