Schalke 04, the German soccer club, have announced they will remove the logo of energy giant Gazprom from their shirts following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine today.
The second-tier 2. Bundesliga outfit will replace the branding of its main shirt sponsor with the name ‘Schalke 04’ on the front of its kits instead.
Schalke made the announcement today but did not indicate whether the long-standing sponsorship with the Russian company will be terminated.
The existing deal between the two parties is due to run until 2025 and is worth €10 million ($11.4 million) per season – rising to €30 million per year if Schalke are promoted back to the top-tier Bundesliga.
Gazprom has been Schalke’s shirt sponsor since 2006.
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, is also under pressure to cut ties with the energy firm, which has served as a top-tier sponsor of the elite Champions League clubs competition since 2012.
Gazprom is among UEFA’s major partners and last year enhanced its relationship with the body to become a sponsor of two editions of the European Championships (Euro 2020 and Euro 2024), in addition to renewing its Champions League sponsorship until 2024.
The company’s sponsorship agreement with UEFA is worth €40 million per year.
Champions League broadcasters are required to show Gazprom commercials as part of their rights deals for the competition and have continued to do so this week despite concerns from viewers that the spots are inappropriate given the situation in Ukraine.
Following Russia’s mass invasion of breakaway territories in Ukraine, broadcasters are now understood to be seeking guidance from UEFA on whether to continue showing Gazprom advertising during their live coverage amid growing concerns from customers.
In a statement, UEFA said it “will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
UEFA is expected to announce tomorrow that the Champions League final will be relocated from Saint Petersburg in Russia.
The moves by Schalke and UEFA are likely to create a domino effect in the sports industry, with English giants Manchester United now reportedly set to end their partnership with Russian airline Aeroflot.
Overall, sponsorship deals and event hosting agreements worth up to $500 million could now be at risk.
Conrad Wiacek, head of sport analysis at GlobalData, commented: “While the Champions League final due to take place in St Petersburg has been the focus over the past few days, many other sport-focused sponsorship and event agreements are now at risk.
“Formula 1 hosts an annual Grand Prix in Sochi, Zenit St Petersburg play the second leg of their UEFA Europa League tie against Real Betis this evening (February 24) and with Gazprom a major UEFA sponsor of both the Champions League and European Championship, in addition to its partnership with Schalke, the financial repercussions from Russia’s invasion will reach deep into the sports industry as well.
“In addition to massive sponsorship agreements, Russia is a major events host with upcoming events such as the UEFA Super Cup in 2023, the European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in 2023, and the European Curling Championships later this year. The country has also declared an interest in hosting the 2027 Rugby World Cup and the 2036 Olympic Games, all of which are now under threat.
“This will be a particular body blow to the IOC with host cities and nations becoming increasingly difficult to come by. The question facing many international governing bodies is whether they are guided by money or by morals.”