FIFA Oust Russia from the 2022 World Cup Qatar
In light of Russia's recent and ongoing military invasion of Ukraine and increasing pressure from football organisations worldwide, FIFA announced today, Monday, February 28th, that they have suspended Russia's national teams from international football until further notice. The suspension effectively eliminates the Russians from the upcoming European 2022 World Cup playoffs in March and puts an end to the nation's chances of qualifying for the tournament.
FIFA's ban comes almost twenty-four hours after an initial string of sanctions on Russian teams were declared by football's governing body. The sanctions, which allowed Russia’s national teams to continue to play but only under the country’s football federation acronym RFU, on neutral territory, with no anthem, flags or spectators, were widely condemned as insufficient.
Poland’s Football Association President Cezary Kulesza branded FIFA’s punitive measures as totally unacceptable, adding, “We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances. Our stance remains intact: the Polish National Team will not play with Russia no matter what the name of the team”.
Sweden’s Football Association President and UEFA Senior Vice President Karl-Erik Nilsson echoed the sentiments of Kulesza, stating, “The illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football fixtures with Russia impossible. We, therefore, urge FIFA to decide that the (European 2022 World Cup) playoff matches in March, in which Russia participates, will be cancelled”.
Indeed, prior to FIFA's sanctions, Russia's Group B opponents at the European World Cup playoffs, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, had already refused to play the Russians. The English Football Association, one of several national associations to issue statements refusing to play against the Russians, also announced that their national teams would not play Russia for the foreseeable future. The French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet called for world sport, in particular football, to take sides and not to remain neutral over Russia's war, and expressed his desire for Russia to be expelled from the 2022 World Cup. Europe's football governing body, UEFA, withdrew the 2022 Champions League Final from Russia's St Petersburg, moving it instead to Paris, though they stopped short of banning Russian clubs from the tournament. Across the water from Europe, the United States Soccer Federation also announced that they “will neither tarnish our global game nor dishonor Ukraine, by taking the same field as Russia, no matter the level of competition or circumstance, until freedom and peace have been restored".
In fact, many other sports followed suit pulling teams from games with Russia, banning Russians from tournaments and, in the International Judo Federation’s case, suspending Vladimir Putin from his position as honorary president. However, it wasn’t until the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a recommendation to international sports federations to exclude Russian and Belarusian* athletes, officials and teams from international competitions wherever possible, that FIFA and UEFA finally issued a joint statement suspending Russia from competitive football.
The statement read, “FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice. These decisions were adopted today by the Bureau of the FIFA Council and the Executive Committee of UEFA, respectively the highest decision-making bodies of both institutions on such urgent matters. Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents (Gianni Infantino and Aleksander Ceferin) hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”
The ban, which came into effect immediately, will see Russia banned, not just from the World Cup but also from UEFA’s Champions League, the Europa League and the Women’s European Championships. UEFA also announced a second significant gesture, cancelling its long-standing and highly lucrative sponsorship deal with Russian gas company and a sponsor of the Champions League, Gazprom. In a statement issued by UEFA, the organisation said, “UEFA has today decided to end its partnership with Gazprom across all competitions. The decision is effective immediately and covers all existing agreements including the (upcoming) Champions League, UEFA national team competitions and UEFA Euro 2024”.