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28 February 2022

Russia set to be expelled from World Cup over invasion of Ukraine

28 February 2022

Russia are set to be expelled from the World Cup over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The PA news agency understands the game’s global governing body FIFA is in advanced talks to suspend the Russian Football Union.

It is working closely with European confederation UEFA, and it is expected a joint statement confirming the RFU’s suspension could come later on Monday.

The suspension would mean that, barring an unlikely change of course in the Russian invasion, the country would not be able to face Poland in a World Cup play-off semi-final next month.

The International Olympic Committee’s executive board issued a recommendation to international sports federations earlier on Monday to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes, officials and teams from international competitions wherever possible.

That IOC executive board decision effectively gave a green light to FIFA to go further than it previously had, and to exclude Russia from the World Cup.

The IOC said the exclusion recommendation had been made “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants”.

It is the strongest move taken yet by the international sports community to isolate Russia from global competition.

FIFA had faced criticism over its initial decision on Sunday night to allow Russia to continue to compete in the men’s World Cup play-offs, but on neutral territory and under the Football Union of Russia banner.

UEFA is understood to be holding an executive committee meeting on Monday evening, where discussions are expected to take place over Russia’s place in the Women’s Euro and the men’s Nations League, and Spartak Moscow’s Europa League last-16 berth.

Oliver Mintzlaff, the chief executive of Spartak’s last-16 opponents RB Leipzig, said in a tweet on the club’s official channel: “We continue to be in close contact with the associations and have complete confidence in UEFA and their decision. We assume that the games will be cancelled.”

The UEFA ExCo is also expected to hold further discussions on ending its sponsorship agreement with Russian energy firm Gazprom. German club Schalke announced the premature end of its deal with the same company earlier on Monday.

Manchester City’s Ukraine defender Oleksandr Zinchenko posted on Instagram on Monday calling for the exclusion of Russia from all international sports governing bodies and the country’s athletes from participating in international competitions.

Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko has called for the exclusion of Russian athletes from all international competitions (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Football’s world players’ union, FIFPRO, also called for the expulsion of the RFU.

“Russia’s aggression and the united response of democracies around the world have shown that the defence of human dignity and the rule of law are being tested,” a FIFPRO statement said.

“Football, and sport, has its own responsibility to respond in turn. Its past policies of political neutrality have failed the test of time, and today must mark a turning point for how sport engages with society, how it stands for democracy and human rights.

“A new approach, consistently applied, that rests on sport’s proclaimed values is urgently needed.”

The IOC executive board recommendation acknowledged that for events starting imminently, such as the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing, it may be difficult legally and logistically to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing officially open on Friday (Ng Han Guan/AP) (AP)

The IOC accepts the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) must “find its own way to effectively address the dilemma described above”.

The IPC has been contacted for comment. As things stand, Russian athletes are set to compete in China under the Russian Paralympic Committee banner. That change in name is a consequence of earlier sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency over state-sponsored doping in Russia.

The IOC ruling is likely to have an impact on world championships across many sports scheduled to take place later this year, such as the multi-sport European Championships in Munich in August, the rowing World Championships in the Czech Republic in September, the Track Cycling World Championships in France in October and the Gymnastics World Championships in Liverpool across October and November.

The IOC has also withdrawn the Olympic Order – the highest award in the Olympic Movement – from members of the Russian government including president Vladimir Putin.

Last week it advised international sports federations to move or cancel any events set to be staged in Russia or Belarus. On Friday, UEFA announced the Champions League final in May had been moved from the Russian city of St Petersburg to Paris.

Earlier on Monday, the Scottish Football Association and the Football Association of Ireland joined the English and Welsh FAs in refusing to face Russia in an international fixture at any level.

The SFA and FAI also offered their support to the Ukrainian federation with regard to the organisation of matches scheduled against the team later this year.

Scotland are due to host Ukraine in a World Cup play-off semi-final in March and then in the Nations League in June, with an away fixture set for September.

The Republic are due to play Ukraine twice in the Nations League in June, first at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and then at a neutral venue unless current UEFA guidance changes.

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