Sports bodies go further to isolate and condemn Russia

GENEVA (AP) — Sporting bodies across Europe moved Monday to further isolate and condemn Russia after its invasion of Ukraine by refusing to host or play teams from the country.

Finland wants the Russian hockey team to be banned from the men’s world championships it will host in May, the Swiss football federation has declared that its women’s team will not play Russia in July during the European championship, and German soccer club Schalke said it had decided to end its long-standing partnership with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

However, the wave of opposition to Russian teams and athletes has not yet spread to a ban. The International Olympic Committee also did not suspend Russia or Belarus, which allowed the use of their land for troops and the launching of military strikes against Ukraine.

Football’s governing body FIFA has so far refused to bar Russia from the World Cup. The Russian team, which FIFA says will have to compete as the Russian Football Union as a punishment, was due to host Poland on March 24 in a World Cup qualifier. But Poland and Russia’s next potential opponents, Sweden and the Czech Republic, have all said they would refuse to enter the pitch.

“The Swedish Football Association is disappointed with FIFA’s decision but is determined to continue working with other federations to cancel Russia’s matches in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers,” the club said on Monday. instance, citing “the illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine”.

The World Cup is due to start on November 21 in Qatar.

In European club football, Russian side Spartak Moscow are still set to play next week in the Europa League against German club Leipzig. European governing body UEFA cleared Spartak to take their place in Friday’s round of 16 draw, a day after Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion to begin.

There is precedent for removing Russian teams from the sport. In 1992, following United Nations sanctions, FIFA and UEFA expelled Yugoslavia from its competitions when war broke out in the Balkans.

Apart from Schalke’s efforts to drop Gazprom as a partner, UEFA are also expected to see if they can cancel their sponsorship deals with the company. Gazprom sponsors both the Champions League and the European Championship.

FIFA has drawn the most criticism among sporting bodies for allowing Russia to continue to participate, at least for now, in World Cup qualifiers. He left open the possibility of a ban.

Instead of banning the team, FIFA attempted to compromise by ordering Russia to play at neutral venues without its flag or anthem and under the name of its federation – the Russian Football Union.

This matches the sanctions imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in December 2020 to punish Russia for state-sponsored doping and concealment of cheating, and applied to the Tokyo Olympics last year and the Winter Games this year in Beijing.

The Russian football team already had to play under these conditions if it qualified for the World Cup because of the doping scandals. FIFA’s decision to apply the conditions to a regional sporting event – the European qualifying matches – is the only punishment for the war.

If Russia took on Poland as scheduled on March 24 and won, the team would then face either Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29.

Swedish football federation president Karl-Erik Nilsson, who is also senior vice-president of UEFA, said on Sunday he expected a “clearer stance” from FIFA.

Polish Football Association president Cezary Kulesza said on Sunday it was “completely unacceptable” that FIFA had not immediately expelled Russia from World Cup qualifiers and said Poland “don’t was not interested in participating in this game of appearances”.

Another of Russia’s future opponents, Albania, also said on Sunday that they would not play the country in any sport. Russia and Albania are due to meet twice in June as part of the UEFA Nations League football tournament. The group also includes Iceland and Israel.

In hockey, the sport’s governing body has come under pressure from Finland and Switzerland to ban Russia and Belarus, both of which are due to compete in the world championships in May in Helsinki and Tampere.

Finnish Hockey Association president Harri Nummela said in a statement on Monday that he had held talks with the Zurich-based IIHF to exclude the two countries from the sport internationally.


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