Russia could join Asian football without FIFA decree, claims lawyer
Russian football teams could switch from European to Asian competitions without needing permission from FIFA, a sports lawyer has said while the Russian Football Union waits to discover whether it faces further punishment from the world governing body because of the attack on Ukraine.
Football chiefs in Russia failed in a bid to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to lift FIFA and UEFA's suspensions on clubs and the national team, which was imposed after the conflict began in February.
CAS is yet to rule on the legal basis for the decision that has all-but ended Russia's hopes of reaching the 2022 Qatar World Cup finals, and reports suggest the FIFA Council could expel or suspend the country at a meeting being held before the organization's 72nd Congress in Doha on Thursday.
Russia would not need FIFA permission to leave UEFA and join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) because parts of its territories are in Asia, according to sports lawyer Anna Antseliovich.
"If we were not in Asia, then we would need the consent of FIFA to join a regional association on the territory of the continent of which the federation is not located," Anceliovich told Tass, adding that FIFA and regional federations would not otherwise allow a transition.
"So since Russia is in Asia, we do not need FIFA's consent to join the Asian Football Confederation."
Antseliovich pointed to the Israel Football Association, which was an AFC member from 1954 until it was expelled 20 years later because of refusals to play Israel by Arab and Muslim confederation members.
Israel played in FIFA competitions and made infrequent appearances in matches with sides from UEFA, South America and Oceania.
The country was admitted to FIFA in 1992 and became a full member in 1994, playing in UEFA club competitions and the European Championships since then.
"[Russia's] is such an exceptional case – it happens not every day, not every year,” said Anceliovich.
“There have only been a couple of such cases in history, probably. The most famous is Israel's transition from the Asian Football Confederation to UEFA."
Russia would compete in World Cup qualification groups with countries including Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia if it became part of AFC, and could face playoffs for the finals against South American nations.
Russian clubs could take on teams from countries such as Uzbekistan, North Korea and Palestine in the Asian Champions League and the AFC Cup.
Reigning Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg played in the Champions League in a group containing Juventus, Chelsea and Malmo this season, and fellow Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow were ousted from the Europa League as part of the UEFA ban.
2018 World Cup hosts Russia had been due to welcome Poland in their scheduled playoff semifinal on March 24, only for their opponents to be awarded a bye.
Poland are at home to Sweden on Tuesday to decide who will reach the finals. Both nations – as well as the Czech Republic, who lost in their semifinal to Sweden – had publicly refused to face Russia.
Russia boss Valeri Karpin spoke on Monday of his hope that his country would return to the international stage.