FIFA refuses to ban Russia from World Cup qualifiers, the team will compete under the acronym “RFU”


FIFA backed away from immediately expelling Russia from Sunday’s World Cup qualifiers but said that remained an option, deciding instead the team could play using the acronym ‘RFU’ for the football federation from the country.

The unanimous decision of the FIFA Bureau, comprising the six presidents of the regional football confederations, also declared that the Russian flag and anthem cannot be associated with the team.

“FIFA will continue its ongoing dialogue with the IOC, UEFA and other sports organizations to determine any additional measures or sanctions, including possible exclusion from competitions, which will be applied in the near future if the situation does not improve. not quickly,” FIFA said. statement read.

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The decision adopts the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) before the invasion of Ukraine, punishing Russia’s cover-up of the state-sponsored doping investigation. This meant that the Russians had to participate in the last two Olympics as a ROC team. FIFA had blocked the implementation of Russia’s ban on competing under the country’s name until potential World Cup qualification.

FIFA also stated that the RFU team can only play on neutral ground and without spectators.

It was not immediately clear whether the decision to use the Russian Football Union acronym would satisfy Poland, which said on Saturday it would refuse to face Russia in a semi-final of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. the World Cup, scheduled for Moscow on March 24.

The winner of the qualifiers is due to host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 to decide who will qualify for the November 21-December 18 World Cup in Qatar.

The Czech Republic joined Poland and Sweden on Sunday in saying they would refuse to play against Russia.

“The Czech FA Executive Committee, staff members and players of the national team have agreed that it is not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral ground. “, the federation said in a statement. “We all want the war to end as soon as possible.”

Separately, the English Football Association announced that its national teams would refuse to play against Russia for the “foreseeable future”. Russia have qualified for the Women’s European Championship to be hosted by England in June.

The English FA said the decision was taken “in solidarity with Ukraine and to unreservedly condemn the atrocities committed by the Russian leadership”.

The RFU’s president is Aleksandr Dyukov, who is chief executive of a subsidiary of state-owned energy giant Gazprom and also sits on the UEFA executive committee.

In France, the president of the football federation Noël Le Graët told the daily Le Parisien on Sunday that he was leaning towards the exclusion of Russia from the World Cup.

“The world of sport, and especially football, cannot remain neutral,” said Le Graët, who sits on the ruling FIFA Council and has recently been a close ally of governing body chairman Gianni Infantino. .

A strict reading of the FIFA World Cup regulations would make even the Polish, Swedish and Czech federations subject to disciplinary sanctions and having to pay fines and compensation if they do not play against Russia.

In 1992, however, FIFA and UEFA withdrew Yugoslavia from their competitions following United Nations sanctions imposed when war broke out in the Balkans.

The FIFA Bureau, chaired by Infantino, includes UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

On Friday, UEFA withdrew the 2022 Champions League final from Saint Petersburg, moving it to Paris, and said Russian and Ukrainian teams in its competitions must play home matches in neutral countries. UEFA have cleared Spartak Moscow to continue playing in the second division Europa League Round of 16.

As Ukraine’s attack entered its fourth day on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin temporarily lost his highest official position in world sport. The International Judo Federation cited “the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine” for suspending Putin’s status as honorary president.

The Russian president is an avid judoka and competed in the sport at the 2012 London Olympics.

In Putin’s other favorite sport, ice hockey, Latvian club Dinamo Riga withdrew from the Russian-owned and run Continental Hockey League on Sunday, citing the “military and humanitarian crisis”.

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