FIFA in 'advanced discussions' to expel Russia from World Cup




Agency Report

FIFA is in "advanced discussions" to suspend the Russian national team from international competitions including the World Cup following the invasion of Ukraine, a source with knowledge of the talks told AFP on Monday.

The source said Russia would be expelled from the World Cup "unless the situation improves."

The Russian team are due to play Poland in a World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final on March 24, and would go on to face Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 for a place at the finals in Qatar later this year.

FIFA announced on Sunday that Russian teams would be allowed to continue playing under the name of the Football Union of Russia, playing home games on neutral territory and behind closed doors, and with the Russian flag and anthem banned.

Those measures were dismissed as "totally unacceptable" by Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza, who added that Poland would not play their World Cup play-off with Russia, "no matter what the name of the team is."

Sweden and the Czech Republic followed suit, with Swedish FA chief Karl-Erik Nilsson saying he was "displeased" with FIFA's decision.

Global players' union FIFPro on Monday released a statement saying it "strongly disagrees" with the measures so far taken by FIFA.

FIFPro criticised FIFA for "imposing the lightest of sanctions on the Russian Football Union" and said that participation of Russian teams in international competitions was now "not a possibility".

With other nations also coming out to say they would not play against Russia, FIFA appears to have little choice but to take stronger action.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet on Sunday told newspaper Le Parisien he "certainly would not oppose the expulsion of Russia".

France are the World Cup holders after winning the 2018 tournament which was hosted by Russia.

The English FA said their national teams would not play any games against Russia "out of solidarity with Ukraine and to wholeheartedly condemn the atrocities being committed by the Russian leadership".

On Monday the Dutch Football Federation said the Netherlands would not play against Russia or Belarus "until further notice."

- UEFA set to act -

The draw for the World Cup is due to be held in Doha on April 1 with the tournament taking place in November and December.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday called on sports organisers to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events "in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants".

German sports agency SID, an AFP subsidiary, reported Monday that UEFA, European football's governing body, is set to suspend Russian teams from all competitions.

That would mean Russia being excluded from the women's European Championship in England in July, and Spartak Moscow being kicked out of the Europa League.

Russia are due to play both the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as Switzerland, in their group at the women's Euro.

Spartak are scheduled to play RB Leipzig of Germany in the last 16 next month.

UEFA last week stripped the Russian city of Saint Petersburg of this season's Champions League final, moving the game on May 28 to Paris.

Sources also told AFP on Saturday that UEFA was considering terminating its sponsorship deal with Russian state energy giant Gazprom.

Gazprom has been a key sponsor of UEFA since 2012 and is believed to pay around 40 million euros ($45 million) a year in a deal that runs to 2024.

Russian football federation president Alexander Dyukov, boss of Gazprom Neft, the petrol branch of Gazprom, is a member of the UEFA's executive committee.

German club Schalke 04 announced Monday it had prematurely ended its shirt sponsorship deal with Gazprom.


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