Champions League final could be moved from Russia amid Ukraine tension - sources

UEFA are exploring contingency plans to move this season's Champions League final from Saint Petersburg amid concerns over the possibility of military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, sources have told ESPN.

The Krestovsky Stadium, which was built as a centrepiece of Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup, is due to stage the 2022 Champions League final on May 28, becoming only the second Russian city to host the biggest game in club football following Moscow's staging of the 2008 final between Manchester United and Chelsea.

Saint Petersburg had initially been scheduled to host the 2021 final, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic led to UEFA staging the 2020 and 2021 finals in Portugal, Lisbon and Porto respectively, with original hosts Istanbul and Saint Petersburg being reallocated their hosting of the final in 2023 and 2022.

The prospect of Saint Petersburg, the base of major Champions League sponsor Gazprom, hosting this season's final is now in doubt, however, due to escalating political tensions between Russia and Western governments.

The UK government and the European Union have served notice in the past 24 hours of a readiness to impose stringent sanctions on Russia following Russian president Vladimir Putin's declaration on Monday that his country now recognise the independence of Ukrainian regions Donetsk and Luhansk.

"With regard to the 2022 UEFA Champions League final in Saint Petersburg, we would like to inform you that UEFA is constantly and closely monitoring the situation and any decision would be made in due course if necessary," a UEFA statement said later on Tuesday.

With four English clubs -- Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and holders Chelsea -- still in the competition, the prospect of a third all-Premier League final in four years has raised the possibility of Wembley stepping in as a host venue, although the home of English football is already pencilled in for the 2024 final.

Sources have said that, having moved the past two finals at short notice due to COVID-19, UEFA are prepared to make a similar decision this season if the situation demands a switch of venue.

However, with supporters likely to travel in numbers to this season's final due to the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions throughout Europe, there is an acceptance within UEFA that clarity will be necessary to avoid the problems that would be caused by a late change of venue.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined calls for Russia to have the game take off them.

Britain said that it would discuss the location of the Champions League final, which is scheduled to take place in Saint Petersburg in May, with the relevant governing bodies.

Asked whether he would push for the Champions League final to be moved, Johnson told lawmakers on Tuesday: "I think it inconceivable that major international football tournaments can take place in Russia after... the invasion of a sovereign country."