No World Cup ban for Russia yet, but team can’t use flag or anthem

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 its football federation’s acronym ‘RFU’. , the Russian Football Union.

The unanimous decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council, which includes 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,” FIFA said in a statement, “including possible exclusion from competitions, which will be applied in the near future if the situation does not improve soon.”

The ruling adopts the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, punishing Russia’s cover-up of the state-sponsored doping investigation. Under this decision, the Russians were to participate in the last two Olympics as a team of the Russian Olympic Committee. FIFA had blocked the implementation of the ban on Russia from competing under its name until eventual qualification for the World Cup.

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

President of the Polish Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, reacted angrily to FIFA’s decisionreiterating the association’s decision to decline to face Russia in their World Cup qualifying semi-final, scheduled for March 24.

“Today’s decision by FIFA is unacceptable to us,” Kulesza said. “In the situation of the war in Ukraine, we are not interested in the game of appearances.

“Our position remains the same: the Polish national team will NOT play against Russia in the playoff match, regardless of the name of the Russian team.”

The winner of the qualifiers must host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 to decide who will qualify for the November-December 21. 18 World Cup finals in Qatar. However, both nations had said ahead of FIFA’s decision that they would refuse to play against Russia.

The Polish FA wrote to FIFA later on Sunday to formally reject the governing body’s decision.

“The Polish Football Association informs that due to the brutal aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and the ongoing war there, we see no possibility of competing with the Russian national team in the play-offs for promotion to the Qatar World Cup in 2022, regardless of the name of the team made up of Russian footballers and the venue of the match,” he said.

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

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

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

On Sunday, the president of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graet, told Le Parisien newspaper that he was leaning towards the exclusion of Russia from the World Cup.

“The world of sport, and in particular football, cannot remain neutral,” said Le Graet, 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 the Polish, Swedish and Czech federations liable to disciplinary sanctions and required 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 games in neutral countries. UEFA have cleared Spartak Moscow to continue playing in the second division Europa League Round of 16.

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