Europe’s governing soccer body, UEFA, will move this year’s Champions League Final out of St. Petersburg after Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, according to multiple reports.
The decision is expected to be made official on Friday when UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin meets with the executive committee Friday morning.
“We are dealing with this situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency,” UEFA said in a statement. “UEFA shares the international community’s significant concern for the security situation developing in Europe and strongly condemns the ongoing Russian military invasion in Ukraine.”
The Champions League is one of the largest and most viewed soccer competitions in the world — a tournament that takes the best teams in each European country’s top leagues every year and pits them against each other in a continental championship.
In the United States, the Champions League Final last season between English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City averaged 3.65 million viewers.
The competition, which just began its knockout stages in the Round of 16, was scheduled to hold its final on May 28 at Gazprom Stadium, which is the home of famed Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg.
Gazprom is also Russia’s state energy company, which also sponsors the Champions League and the 2024 European Championships. German club Schalke 04 will be removing Gazprom’s logo from its uniform in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Whether UEFA follows suit is uncertain at this time.
The site of the final changes every year and was in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, just four years ago when Spanish giants Real Madrid defeated Liverpool. The last two editions of the final have been held in Portugal — one in Lisbon and the other in Porto.
There will be no shortage of sites to move the Champions League Final to this season. Among obvious options are England’s Wembley Stadium, which will host the final in 2024, and Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, which hosted the final in 2012.