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30 Dec, 2022 15:03

Russia announces steps to determine football future

A working group will be established to explore ways back to international competitions
Russia announces steps to determine football future

The Russian Football Union (RFU) has said it will establish a working group to interact with European governing body UEFA and other organizations in an attempt to find a way back to international competitions for Russian teams.

The decision was announced by the RFU following a meeting of its executive committee in Moscow on Friday. The gathering had been expected to decide on a potential move away from UEFA to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Instead, RFU president Aleksandr Dyukov said steps would be taken to liaise with UEFA as well as world governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in an effort to lift the existing blanket bans on Russian teams at major tournaments.

“It was decided to turn to UEFA regarding the question of the creation of a working group,” Dyukov told reporters, as quoted by RIA Novosti. “We have invited three members of UEFA, we also want to invite representatives from the IOC and FIFA.”

“I think FIFA will be interested [in the idea], it’s also important for them to find a solution. The goal is to analyze and develop a roadmap for the speedy return of Russian teams to international tournaments,” added Dyukov.

“The group will be formed immediately after the [New Year] holidays, its work will be completed by April 1. An agreement with UEFA on the creation of the group has already been reached, today I will send an official letter.”

FIFA and UEFA initially imposed bans on all Russian teams from their competitions at the end of February, following an IOC recommendation because of the conflict in Ukraine. The sanctions deprived the Russian men’s team of the chance to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Russia has already been removed from the qualification stage for the UEFA 2024 European Championships, which will be held in Germany.

Much of the expectation heading into Friday’s meeting had surrounded a potential decision by the RFU’s executive committee on whether it would take the unprecedented step of seeking to leave UEFA and join the AFC, where it would presumably find a faster route back to competition in a more welcoming atmosphere.

However, Dyukov said that the overwhelming sentiment had been in support of the creation of a working group with UEFA, rather than initiating a move towards Asia.

“It’s important for us to take part in the 2026 World Cup, so the working group will work out an option in which this is possible. It’s not right to say that UEFA has become more accommodating. We have specified approaches on how to resolve the issue [of Russian teams returning]. Of course, UEFA doesn’t want to lose us [as members], otherwise they would have expelled us long ago. From the side of UEFA, the attitude towards us has not changed,” Dyukov said.