Report: Gazprom is back in the Champions League, where climate polluting companies dominate

Tuesday 19 September: Russian state-owned oil and gas company Gazprom returns to the Champions League, just 18 months after UEFA broke its ties with the fossil fuel giant following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The group stage match between Manchester City and Red Star Belgrade at the Etihad Stadium threatens to be a new low in the history of problematic sponsorship deals in European football.

Gazprom is Russia’s largest company and the world’s largest state-owned gas company. In 2019, following a scientific analysis, it was ranked the world’s third-largest producer of carbon emissions by the US-based Climate Accountability Institute.

For over a decade it has also been a loyal sponsor of Red Star Belgrade (Crvena zvezda). Whilst UEFA publicly announced that it was ending its partnership with immediate effect with the energy giant in February last year, Red Star Belgrade – currently sitting second in the Serbian Superliga –  has continued to brandish the energy giant’s logo during UEFA’s Europa and Champions League qualifiers.

This season, Red Star Belgrade qualified for the Champions League and Gazprom will return to the highest level of European football.

Football fan group Fossil Free Football is calling on UEFA to put an end to Gazprom’s sponsorship of any club participating in European football.

Founder of Fossil Free Football , Frank Huisingh said:

By continuing to promotepolluting companies on the centre-stage of international football, UEFA is complicit in the climate crisis. 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 Putin’s war machine.” (1)

Gazprom is unique in being a state-owned oil and gas company of a country committing war crimes in an illegal war. It’s also one of the biggest polluters on this planet. That the state-owned company is allowed to advertise in European football speaks to broader issues which UEFA urgently needs to address.

As the latest warning from climate experts points to the urgency of a fossil fuel phase-out, sponsorship by dirty companies dominates this year’s Champions League:

  • UEFA itself is sponsored by an airline, Turkish Airlines.
  • Eight teams will be sponsored by an airline. Emirates sponsors Arsenal, Real Madrid, Benfica FC and AC Milan; Qatar Airways sponsors PSG; Riyadh Air sponsors Atlético Madrid and Etihad Airways sponsors Manchester City. (2)
  • Two teams will be sponsored by polluting cruise company MSC (Napoli and AC Milan). (3)
  • Two teams will be sponsored by crypto products (Binance with FC Porto, OKX with Manchester City). (4)
  • Two teams will promote tourism focused on air travel (Prijsvrij with Feyenoord, Visit Rwanda with Arsenal).

UEFA has subscribed to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, where signatories commit to “promote sustainable and responsible consumption”. Yet advertisements for polluting products on shirts and the hoardings around the pitches are totally inconsistent with this commitment.

“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”, Huisingh said.

Fossil Free Football calls upon UEFA to update its advertising regulations and include a ban on polluting sponsorship. This will ensure that climate destructive companies can no longer use football’s platform to promote their polluting activities. This would be in line with bans on tobacco ads. Many cities worldwide have adopted fossil ad bans. (5)


For questions, please contact Frank Huisingh:

Editors notes:

  1. Fossil Free Football is a group of football fans campaigning for a ban in football on sponsorship and ad deals with polluting companies, and for serious climate action by FIFA, UEFA, national associations and clubs.
  2. If no action is taken, aviation emissions are expected to double or triple by 2050 and in doing so consume up to one-quarter of the global carbon budget under a 1.5 degree scenario.
  3. According to a recent study published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, a large cruise ship can have a carbon footprint greater than 12,000 cars, while passengers on an Antarctic cruise can produce as much CO2 emissions on a seven-day voyage as the average European in an entire year.
  4. Mining crypto requires a lot of energy. Bitcoin alone is estimated to consume 127 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year — more than many countries, such as Norway.
  5. The best way to address these issues is to finally update its regulations on advertising, Article 27 of the UEFA Equipment Regulations. UEFA should add a ban on advertising polluting products that have a strong impact on the climate crisis, starting with fossil fuel companies, air lines, car companies still selling petrol cars, cryptocurrency, cruises and banks that still finance fossil fuel projects. This list can be updated yearly by a panel of climate experts. More context on a ban on fossil ads can be found here.