European football’s governing body has been called for further action as Russian-owned oil company Gazprom is set to return to the limelight.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine back in 2022, Gazprom was dropped as the official sponsor for UEFA’s prize competition, the Champions League, with Russian clubs also banned from competing.
The two bodies had been partnered for a decade, but after a year away from football fans’ screens, Gazprom’s name and logo are set to return.
Manchester City get their defence of the Champions League underway on Tuesday night, and come up against Serbian giants Crvena Zvezda – Red Star Belgrade – who are still sponsored by the oil giants.
According to the Mirror, though, UEFA are now being put under pressure to act and remove the Russian company’s presence from the competition, with climate group Fossil Free Football claiming UEFA are ‘complicit’ in the climate crisis.
UEFA are facing calls to act with Gazprom set to return to the Champions League on Tuesday
Gazprom was dropped as the official sponsor of the Champions League following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
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‘By continuing to promote polluting companies on the centre-stage 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 that. Not only is the multinational one of the biggest polluters on this planet, but its profits continue to flow into [Vladimir] Putin’s war machine.’
‘By allowing this, young players are helping to advertise some of the most climate polluting products on this planet and to normalise these products through their association with the emotions of football.
‘Players are – without being asked – supporting climate breakdown, threatening their own future. After a summer of disastrous climate events impacting people around the world, UEFA needs to urgently change course.’
Gazprom is the third-largest producer of carbon emissions, according to the Climate Accountability Institute, but Crvena Zvezda are far from the only club to promote such a company.
UEFA are sponsored by Turkish Airlines, while another eight sides are sponsored by airlines, with others taking money in exchange for promotion of crypto products and cruise companies.
Man City notably removed the presence of Gazprom on the Crvena Zvezda shirt in a social media post at the end of August when the group stages were announced.
After being approached 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 states that the governing body must supply written approval for all advertising deals.
FFF are not the only group putting pressure on UEFA to take action, with Game Changer – a group looking to ban advertising for fossil fuels, gambling and alcohol around sport – director Michael Hardy adding: ‘In the middle of both the hottest year on record and the continuing war in Ukraine, it is galling to see a Russian gas company return to Red Star’s strip.
The Russian oil giants are still sponsoring Crvena Zvezda kits despite have ties cut with the Champions League
Man City had removed the Crvena Zvezda sponsor from the shirt in social media post
‘As a minimum, Red Star needs to give them the boot – or face punishment from UEFA for this decision. For too long, the sporting world has allowed itself to be captured by the very worst companies in the world – from fossil fuel companies to gambling firms.’
Similarly, Belinda Noble, founder of Comms Declare who run the Fossil Ad Ban Campaign, stated: ‘Just like tobacco before them, fossil fuel corporations are using sporting heroes to try to salvage 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 impacts of global warming. We believe that governments must step in and ban this insidious propaganda hurting fans, players and our future.’
Gazprom and Crvena Zvezda were approached for comment by the Mirror, but did not respond.