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The Sporting World Supports Ukraine

Hannah Peart documents the sanctions facing Russia's sporting stars

Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Russian national football team and its domestic football teams have all been suspended from all competitions by FIFA and UEFA.

The international governing body of football, FIFA and the governing body of football in Europe, UEFA, have both come to the decision that the Russian football teams and their domestic teams will be unable to compete in any competitive matches.

The joint statement from the two governing bodies on 28th February said:

“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.”

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents 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.”

As a result, this means that Russia’s women’s team will not play in the Euros 2022 this summer and that the men’s team will be unable to play the World Cup play-off semi-final on 24th March against Poland. Spartak Moscow are the only domestic team affected, as they have been removed from the Europa League meaning RB Leipzig will progress to the quarter finals of the tournament.

Before the statement, FIFA had come to the conclusion that Russia could compete but without their flag or national anthem. FIFA also stated that Russia would have to play their matches in a neutral territory, outside of Russia and under the title ‘Football Union of Russia’. Which countries however would host this Russian team, as surely most countries would refuse to host them? The lack of restrictions that FIFA put into place regarding Russia sparked outrage in the footballing community and across the international community with several nations such as Poland, Scotland, Wales, England, Czech Republic and Sweden publicly stating that they would refuse to play matches against the Russian team even under the regulations enforced by FIFA.

Polish football association president Cezary Kulesza said the decision made by FIFA was “totally unacceptable” and stated that Poland are “not interested in participating in this game of appearances.” Kulesza concluded that the Polish National Team, like many others would “not play with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is.”

The Russian football’s governing body, the Russian Football Union, stated that it “categorically disagreed” with the decisions made by FIFA and that it will challenge the decisions made “in accordance with international sports law."

Rod Petrie, the Scottish FA President sent a message of support, friendship and unity to the people of Ukraine with Scotland due to face Ukraine in their World Cup play-off semi-final on 24 March at Hampden Park.

The Champions League final was due to take place in St Petersburg, Russia in late May, however, UEFA have taken the decision to move it to Paris, France instead. The footballing world has united in taking action against distancing themselves from Russia with UEFA deciding to terminate its sponsorship with PJSC Gazprom which is a Russian majority state-owned multi-national energy corporation. German side Schalke has also terminated its sponsorship with the Russian energy giant. Manchester United have also acted by ending their partnership with Aeroflot, Russia’s national airline.

As well as the footballing community coming together, with the International Olympic Committee recommending that all sports should enforced a total ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors to “protect the integrity of global sport”, many other sports have also taken strong action as a result of the invasion.

With the Winter Paralympics taking place 4th-13th March in Beijing, China, it has not yet been decided the regulations that the IOC will put in place in advance of the games commencing.

In Formula One, the governing body, the FIA, have decided that there will not be a Grand Prix in Sochi Russia. It was due to take place on 25 September but after pressure from the global F1 community and drivers (such as four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel who stated that un- der no circumstances he will race in Russia), the FIA decided to cancel the race. The sport of badminton, equestrian, ice hockey and fencing have all removed international events. Some of the sports are also banning athletes and officials from both countries from participating in all competitions.

In the Tennis world, Daniil Medvedev, has just become world No 1. However, his delight at his ranking may be short lived as he is of Russian nationality. The Ukrainian Tennis Federation also stated that the Russian Tennis Federation should be excluded from both the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean Cup, of which they are the reigning champions.

The sporting world is uniting against the Russian invasion on Ukraine, and it is important to recognise the vital role that sport can play in world politics. The criticism that FIFA received after initially not banning Russia from competing shows the how sport’s governing bodies cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in Eastern Europe. Many individual athletes and sports teams across a plethora of sports are using the platform they have to send a message of solidarity with the victims of the Putin regime.

Image: Carineo6 Flickr

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