Russia avoids FIFA vote after expulsion fears
The question of Russian membership was not raised at a FIFA congress in Qatar, after suggestions among sections of the media that Russia could be suspended from the organization due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Convening in Doha for its 72nd Congress, FIFA officials and members discussed an agenda point which was titled “suspension or expulsion of a member association.”
Some in the Russian media had raised concerns that the discussion could focus on potentially expelling the Russian Football Union (RFU), with claims that some federations would back the move.
Russian national teams and clubs have already been suspended from all UEFA and FIFA competitions in the wake of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
But Thursday’s meeting in Qatar focused on the status of three members – Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Kenya – whose existing suspensions were confirmed due to “third-party interference” in the operations of the football authorities.
Membership of the RFU was not raised, although FIFA president Gianni Infantino did touch on Ukraine in his address to the more than 200 member organizations represented at the congress.
“I’m looking at Ukraine with a heavy heart,” said Infantino, who was formerly UEFA general secretary.
“The last [European Championship] I organized together with UEFA as the general secretary was in Ukraine and Poland [in 2012]. The last final that I was working on was in Kiev,” he added.
“The last World Cup I contributed to organize as FIFA president was in Russia, the last final was in Moscow.
“The Russia World Cup in 2018 was by all means a great World Cup, a great success sportingly and culturally.”
“But obviously it did not solve the problems in the world, it did not even solve the problems in the region. It did not create a lasting peace,” said Infantino.
“Once this terrible conflict is over – and all other conflicts around the world as well – hopefully very soon football can play a small part in rebuilding relationships, in establishing peace and understanding...
“My plea to all of those who have some power in this world, in important political positions, please stop conflicts and wars, for our children, for our future.
“Please engage in dialogue, even with your worst enemy, please try to come together. Football will be there in helping to work together for peace,” he added.
Commenting on the developments, honorary RFU president Vyacheslav Koloskov told Match TV it was a “good sign” for Russian membership.
“This suggests that among the majority of members of the congress there was no desire to mix politics with sports,” said Koloskov, who is a former FIFA vice-president, adding that an extraordinary FIFA Congress on Russian membership was not likely.
The current suspension of Russian teams and clubs ensured that the men’s national team missed out on the chance to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup – the draw for which takes place in Doha on Friday.
Russia were due to face Poland in a playoff semifinal in Moscow on March 24, with the winners facing either Sweden or the Czech Republic in the Russian capital five days later.
Instead, Poland were handed direct passage to the playoff final and defeated Sweden in Chorzow on Tuesday night, booking their spot in Qatar.
Russia has appealed its UEFA and FIFA suspensions with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, but thus far without success.
A definitive CAS decision has yet to be issued, however, with a panel being formed but no hearing date fixed at present.