International sport has begun to turn its back on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with two prestigious events stripped from the country on Friday.
The Champions League football final in May was moved from Russia’s second largest city, St Petersburg, to Paris, while motor sport’s world governing body the FIA announced September’s Formula One Russian Grand Prix had been cancelled.
The International Olympic Committee also called on Friday afternoon for global sports federations to cancel or relocate any future events they are planning to stage in Russia or Belarus.
Manchester United ended their commercial relationship with Russia’s national airline Aeroflot, while Uefa is understood to be discussing with its lawyers how it can sever its ties with Russian energy company Gazprom, a major Champions League sponsor.
Uefa had been widely expected to relocate its showpiece club match from St Petersburg – the home city of Russian president Vladimir Putin – following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, and the switch to the Stade de France in Paris was confirmed at an emergency executive committee meeting on Friday morning.
"Uefa wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French president Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football's most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis," a statement from European football's governing body said.
“Together with the French government, Uefa will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement.”
Uefa also announced any Russian or Ukrainian clubs and national teams involved in its competitions will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice, a decision which will affect Russian club Spartak Moscow who are up against German side RB Leipzig in the Europa League last 16.
This does not apply to the World Cup play-off matches taking place next month, which fall under Fifa's jurisdiction and which feature Russia and Ukraine. Fifa's president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday that the issue was being examined as a matter of urgency.
The Russian Grand Prix, due to take place on September 25th, has been cancelled due to the invasion.
“The FIA Formula One World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together,” an FIA statement read. “We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock, and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.
“On Thursday evening Formula One, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”
The IOC’s executive board has urged global sports federations to cancel or relocate any events they are planning to stage in Russia, and also in Belarus which has provided assistance to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
“They should take the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarussian governments into account and give the safety and security of the athletes absolute priority,” an IOC statement said.
Watford boss Roy Hodgson said the decision to relocate the Champions League final would have been among the easiest Uefa would ever have had to make, and said he hoped the sporting sanctions would have some small impact.
The former England manager said: “To see the sporting family in the world has turned against them in this way and deprived them of something they were looking forward to, I’m certain that has some sort of effect.
“It is one further action that people can take which at least goes to show once again Russia and President Putin that people in the Western world just do not agree with what is going on with his invasion of Ukraine.”
Manchester United announced their withdrawal from a sponsorship deal with Aeroflot. The airline had been a commercial partner of the Premier League club since 2013 and regularly flew United to away games in Europe.
Russian energy giant Gazprom is also set to be dropped as a Champions League sponsor, with Uefa understood to be discussing with its lawyers a way out of its agreement.
Ukrainian footballers understandably anxious and upset about what is happening in their home country have been offered support by their English clubs.
Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko attended a demonstration in the city on Thursday evening, and City manager Pep Guardiola said: "What would we feel if in our country where we were born and have family and friends innocent people are being killed? Of course, the team and the club is close to him, unconditionally."
Everton are offering their support to defender Vitalii Mykolenko, while West Ham manager David Moyes said their Ukrainian star Andriy Yarmolenko had been given some time off.