Along with the trade and economic sanctions Russia has had to contend with, they have also faced punishment at the hands of the governing bodies of various sports. This has usually meant the removal of Russian teams from participation in any competition. In the world of football (the international term for soccer), there are a few things happening as a result of the current situation. A lot of attention is being given to the Russian oligarch and owner of the Chelsea Football Club (Roman Abramovich) who is also being sanctioned by the UK government. However, most importantly the UEFA (Union of European Football Association) and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) have both banned Russia from their respective competitions. UEFA is the governing body for European football and FIFA is the world governing body.
These decisions began with UEFA indefinitely suspending Russian clubs from participation in its club competitions. Furthermore Russian clubs will not be able to play in the UEFA Champions League (CL), UEFA Europa League, UEFA Conference League, among others. This decision will affect Spartak Moscow the most, the only Russian club still active in UEFA club competitions at the time of the ban. The illegal occupation of Ukraine also made UEFA change the venue for the Champions League Final. The Champions League is one of the biggest events in the football world and viewed by millions of football fans all over the globe. The 2022 CL Final was originally going to be hosted at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which has hosted the CL Final in earlier years. However, that is no longer the case. The new host stadium will be the Stade de France, in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, France.
FIFA made the same decision as UEFA, and they released a joint announcement. FIFA has also indefinitely banned Russian teams from playing in its tournaments. FIFA’s decision is more drastic, as it means Russia will not be able to participate in this year’s World Cup, to be played in Qatar, starting November. The World Cup is one of the foremost footballing events in the sport and takes place every four years; being banned from competing is crushing for any team. Banning a country from the most prestigious competition is a momentous decision and in its statement, FIFA went on to condemn the military force being used by Russia within Ukraine’s borders. In terms of international competitions, the suspension means the Russian men’s team will not be able to play in the World Cup playoffs and the Russian women’s team will similarly not be able to take part in the women’s Euros in July.
Russia has appealed FIFA and UEFA’s joint-decision by taking their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport; an independent body that considers these appeals and makes decisions within international sports. Both decisions were ultimately upheld by the Court of Arbitration.
As with all sports, plenty of arguments and disagreements are found all over the internet. Some fans have applauded FIFA’s decision to stand up against Russia and take a moral stance. Others have expressed that Russian athletes might suffer due to the suspension, and that politics should be left out of athletics. More have pointed out that FIFA didn’t have a problem appointing Qatar as the host country for this year’s World Cup, despite the country having facing accusations of labor, human, and women’s rights violations.
Regardless of the fans, UEFA and FIFA have come to a significant decision, and its effects will go beyond the game they both delegate.