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Boris Johnson calls for Russia to be stripped of hosting Champions League final

Boris Johnson says Russia should be stripped of hosting this season’s Champions League final in St Petersburg.

Four English sides – Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – are in the last 16 of the competition.

The final is due to be played in Russia on May 28 at the 68,000-capacity Gazprom Arena and UEFA says it will continue to monitor the growing Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Prime Minister Johnson, however, has made his mind up over the choice of venue by saying Russia’s “pariah status” following the “renewed invasion” of Ukraine bars them from holding football games on the international stage.

Johnson, speaking after announcing new sanctions on Russian banks and wealthy individuals, told the House of Commons: “A Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status – no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.

“A Russia that is engaged in a bloody and debilitating conflict with a fellow Slav country. What an appalling result for President Putin.

“I hope that he steps back from the brink and does not conduct a full invasion.”

A Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status – no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries

Boris Johnson

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries also questioned Russia’s legitimacy to hold major sporting events after Russian troops entered eastern Ukraine.

Dorries tweeted: “I have serious concerns about the sporting events due to be held in Russia, such as the Champions League Final, and will discuss with the relevant governing bodies.

“We won’t allow President Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimise his illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called staging the Champions League final in Russia was “untenable”.

Sadiq Khan, pictured with the European Championship trophy, has suggested that London could step in and replace St Petersburg as Champions League final hosts following Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

(PA Archive)

Khan suggested London could replace St Petersburg as final hosts, although Wembley Stadium is due to host the League Two and Championship play-off finals on May 28-29.

“Hosting international sporting tournaments is a privilege and it cannot be right that Russia is allowed to remain the host of the Champions League final in May now that its troops have marched into eastern Ukraine in a gross violation of international law,” Khan said.

“London is the sporting capital of the world and stands ready to host the final.

“Wherever the final ends up being held, it is clear that staging it in Russia is now untenable.”

UEFA has recent experience of changing the venue of Champions League finals as the last two showpiece editions were relocated to Portugal because of Covid-19.

A statement from European football’s governing body read: “UEFA is constantly and closely monitoring the situation and any decision would be made in due course if necessary.

“UEFA has no further comments to make at present.”

Russian club Zenit St Petersburg remain in the Europa League and are set to play the second leg of their play-off round tie with Real Betis in Spain on Thursday.

Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev are in the last 16 of the UEFA Youth League and had been scheduled to play at home on March 2.

UEFA added: “Regarding the UEFA Youth League game between Dynamo Kiev and Sporting Lisbon scheduled for March 2, the match has been postponed to March 9 and UEFA is in contact with the two clubs for any further decision.”

At international level, Russia are due to host Poland in a World Cup play-off on March 24 and – if they win – would entertain Sweden or Czech Republic five days later.

Ukraine are also involved in the World Cup play-offs but would play away on two occasions.

They visit Scotland on March 24, with the winners travelling to Wales or Austria to determine qualification for Qatar 2022. These World Cup qualifiers fall under the jurisdiction of FIFA.

Manchester United interim manager Ralph Rangnick addressed the issue ahead of his side’s Champions League last-16 first-leg tie away to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Ralf Rangnick says UEFA and politicians could have a decision to make on the venue of this season’s Champions League final (Nick Potts/PA)

(PA Wire)

Rangnick, who was director of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow until joining United in November, said: “It’s still a long way until the final.

“If we are to have a chance (of being in it), we have to beat Atletico first and we are fully aware that this is not the easiest of all draws that we could get.

“What would happen then, this is something for UEFA and maybe even for some politicians to decide upon.

“I think we all hope – not only here in England but in the whole of Europe, if not in the rest of the world – that things will de-escalate.

“Nobody could really be interested in a sort of war within Europe. This is more important, actually, than a Champions League game, if we’re honest.”

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