FIFA proposes sanctions for Russia but no ban yet


Under mounting pressure to act against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, the management of world football’s governing body agreed on Sunday to a series of measures that would come into effect for Russia’s crucial qualifiers for the World Cup next month. Corn proposals – a ban on the name, flag and anthem of Russia and a neutral venue for its matches – does not include the total ban on the Russian national team that its opponents demand, which makes it unclear whether the penalties will resolve the confrontation, or whether the games will be played at all.

Russia were drawn against Poland in March as part of a four-team group for one of Europe’s last places at the World Cup in Qatar later this year. If Russia were to win their game against Poland, they would meet Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place in Qatar when the tournament opens in November. Russia’s first playoff game and potential second game were to be played in Moscow.

The other three countries involved in the battle for the World Cup berth — Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic – have all refused to play against Russia under any circumstances in protest against the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Several top players, including Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, have backed the decision to boycott all matches involving Russia. These statements, and similar ones from other players, put intense pressure on FIFA to remove Russia from the competition.

Other footballing bodies have already taken action against Russia: last week, European football’s governing body deprived Saint Petersburg of this year’s Champions League final, and on Sunday, the English FA football said it would not play against Russia in any international match in the foreseeable future in solidarity with Ukraine and to condemn unreservedly the atrocities committed by the Russian leadership.

Earlier on Sunday, a group of senior FIFA officials sought to find a way out of the simmering confrontation by agreeing to penalize Russia: they ordered that their team be allowed to play only in neutral venues and in stadiums empty; that he must play without his flag or national anthem, and only if his team agrees to be known as the Football Union of Russia, rather than Russia.

Cezary Kulesza, the president of the Polish Football Association, called FIFA’s decision “completely unacceptable”. In a post on Twitterhe added: “We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances. Our position remains intact: the Polish national team will NOT play with Russia, regardless of the name of the team.”

Karl-Erik Nilsson, president of the Swedish football federation, also said she would not play against Russia and urged FIFA to cancel March playoff games involving the country.

FIFA’s measures are just the first step in actions against the country’s football teams, three senior football officials familiar with the organization’s discussions have said, and a tougher sanction – most likely a total ban on teams Russians – could be imposed if Russia attacks Ukraine. continue, or if he refuses to respect Sunday’s penalties.

The measures mirror some of the sanctions imposed on Russian teams by the International Olympic Committee after Russia was caught running a massive state-sponsored doping program; these penalties were widely derided as inadequate by athletes and Olympic officials from other countries.

Nor may they be enough to persuade Russia’s rivals to agree to share a pitch with a Russian team and put FIFA in the awkward position of kicking three of its members out of the qualifiers – and thus allowing Russia to gain unchallenged access to the World Cup, football’s showcase event.

FIFA declined to comment beyond its statement on the proposed sanctions against Russia, or the opposition of the three other federations who have vowed not to play there.

The Russian Football Federation, known as the RFU, rejected even the suggestion that he would not play the game, or games, as expected in Moscow.

“At this time, the RFU has not received any information from FIFA regarding the likelihood of a postponement or cancellation of the World Cup qualifiers scheduled for March 24-29 in Moscow,” the statement said. The Russian Federation said. “We see no legal basis to cancel the playoff game between the Russian and Polish national teams and the subsequent meeting with Sweden or the Czech Republic. The RFU continues to prepare for these games.

Russia, its top leaders and several wealthy individuals and companies have already been targeted by the West with heavy sanctions that have an immediate effect on life in the country, including the banning of air travel by Russian airlines to the most parts of Europe. This ban would most likely make it difficult to find a venue for any match involving the Russian team.

Russia is already widely considered a pariah in international sporting circles after a state-sponsored doping program corrupted a series of international sporting events, including world championships and several editions of the Olympic Games.

If the Russian team qualifies for the World Cup – and if it is allowed to participate in the tournament – it will not be allowed to use its flag, play its anthem or be known by its usual name under a set of existing sanctions handed down two years ago. by the World Anti-Doping Regulator. These penalties do not cover qualifying matches.

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