FIFA urged to reverse ‘very dangerous’ decision on Russia
FIFA and UEFA have made a "very dangerous" decision by banning Russian teams from competitions because of the attack on Ukraine, a group of high-profile football figures has warned.
The Russian Union of Football Veterans accused the governing bodies of discrimination and politicizing sport with the move, pointing to the success of the Russia 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 matches hosted in the country last summer.
Announcing that the Russian national team and club would be suspended from all competitions from February 28, the Presidents of the organizations voiced their hope that the situation in Ukraine would "improve significantly and rapidly", calling for the sport to "again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people."
That has all-but ended Russia's chances of appearing at the 2022 World Cup after their World Cup playoff semifinal opponents, Poland, were handed a bye to the final later this month.
In an open letter obtained by the Mutko Against Telegram channel and reported by Championat, the veterans gave their backing to a Russian Football Union appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the decision.
Stanislav Cherchesov, who managed Russia at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020, and former national team and Spartak Moscow boss Oleg Romantsev were among the signatories of the letter.
"Russia has always been a reliable partner of FIFA and UEFA," it said. "In 2018, we held the best World Cup in history – by your own admission, [FIFA President] Mr. Infantino.
"In 2021, amid the pandemic, we hosted additional Euro 2020 matches at a high level. Russia supports all the key projects and initiatives of FIFA and UEFA and shares the main principles of the organizations.
"Unfortunately, now these organizations have not stood up to protect the interests of the Russian and world football community – but on the contrary, they immediately abandoned the main principle: [that] football [stays out] of politics.
"The Russian Football Union is challenging your decisions in international sports arbitration. We can't go to court.
"But we ask you to remember that FIFA and UEFA must stand guard over the interests of the football community.
"We ask you to cancel a discriminatory and very dangerous decision for world football in terms of its consequences. We believe that you yourself understand [this is] injustice."
Speaking 10 days before Russia had been scheduled to face Poland in Moscow, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said that the decision to remove Russian teams from competitions was painful but the right thing to do.
“To decide that Russian clubs and the national team cannot play was the right decision, but from the other point of view it breaks my heart to see that the athletes have to pay for the decision that is not theirs,” Ceferin said.
CAS has yet to decide on Russia's fate but confirmed the RFU's appeal.
UEFA had previously ruled that the Champions League final on May 28 would move from St. Petersburg to Paris.
The Russian women's national team will not be taking part in Euro 2022 in England this summer.
Spartak Moscow were also removed from the last 16 of the Europa League, with their scheduled opponents, RB Leipzig, reaching the quarterfinals.