UEFA urges action as Russian-owned Gazprom returns to Champions League screens for the first time since invading Ukraine, while Man City’s opponents Red Star Belgrade continue to be sponsored by the oil giants
European football’s governing body has been called for further action as Russian oil company Gazprom is back in the spotlight.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Gazprom was dropped as an official sponsor of UEFA’s prize competition, the Champions League, with Russian clubs also banned from participating.
The two organizations have worked together for a decade, but after a year away from football fans’ screens, the Gazprom name and logo will return.
Manchester City kick off their Champions League defense on Tuesday evening, taking on Serbian giants Crvena Zvezda – Red Star Belgrade – who are still sponsored by the oil giants.
According to the mirrorHowever, UEFA is now being pressured to take action and remove the Russian company’s presence from the competition, with climate group Fossil Free Football claiming that UEFA is ‘complicit’ in the climate crisis.
UEFA is facing calls for action as Gazprom returns to the Champions League on Tuesday
Gazprom was removed as official sponsor of the Champions League after the Russian invasion of Ukraine
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“By continuing to promote polluting companies at the center of international football, UEFA is complicit in the climate crisis,” said Frank Huisingh, founder of FFF.
‘From oil and gas companies to airlines and cruises. Gazprom is the worst example of this. Not only is the multinational one of the biggest polluters on the planet, but its profits continue to flow into (Vladimir) Putin’s war machine.’
‘By allowing this, young players are helping to promote some of the most climate-polluting products on the planet and normalize these products through their association with the emotions of football.
‘Players support – unsolicited – climate collapse and thus threaten their own future. After a summer of catastrophic climate events affecting people around the world, UEFA must urgently change course.”
Gazprom is the third largest producer of CO2 emissions, according to the Climate Accountability Institute, but Crvena Zvezda is far from the only club promoting such a company.
UEFA is sponsored by Turkish Airlines, while a further eight sides are sponsored by airlines, while others take money in return for promoting crypto products and cruise lines.
Man City notably removed Gazprom’s presence on Crvena Zvezda’s shirt in a social media post at the end of August, when the group stages were announced.
After being asked for comment, UEFA told the Mirror that clubs were responsible for their own ‘private contractual agreements’. However, Article 27 of UEFA’s own equipment regulations stipulates that the governing body must give written approval for all advertising agreements.
FFF isn’t the only group putting pressure on UEFA to take action, with Game Changer – a group that wants to ban advertising of fossil fuels, gambling and alcohol around sports – adding: ‘In the middle of the hottest year on record and ongoing war in Ukraine, it is frightening to see a Russian gas company return to the Red Star strip.
The Russian oil giants still sponsor Crvena Zvezda kits despite cutting ties with the Champions League
Man City had removed Crvena Zvezda’s sponsor from the shirt in a social media post
‘At the very least, Red Star must blame them – otherwise he will be punished by UEFA for this decision. For too long, the sports world has allowed itself to be captured by the worst companies in the world – from fossil fuel companies to gambling companies.”
Similarly, Belinda Noble, founder of Comms Declare, who leads the Fossil Ad Ban Campaign, said: ‘Like tobacco before them, fossil fuel companies are using sports heroes to save their reputations and profits while delaying climate action.
“The simple truth is that burning fossil fuels kills more people than smoking, and that number will be dwarfed by the increasingly deadly effects of global warming. We believe that governments must step in and ban this insidious propaganda, which is harming fans, players and our future.”
Gazprom and Crvena Zvezda were contacted by the Mirror for comment but did not respond.