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FIFA, UEFA Suspend All Russian Clubs, National Teams

Russian football clubs and national teams have been suspended from all competitions by FIFA and UEFA after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The world and European football governing bodies said they would be banned “until further notice”.

It means the Russian men’s team will not play their World Cup play-off matches next month and the women’s team has been banned from this summer’s Euro 2022 competition.

Spartak Moscow has also been kicked out of the Europa League and their last-16 opponents RB Leipzig will advance to the quarter-finals.

Uefa has also ended its sponsorship with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement.

“Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

FIFA and UEFA intervened after Russia, supported by Belarus, launched a military invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last Thursday.

The Russian men’s team had been scheduled to face Poland in a World Cup play-off semi-final on 24 March.

Russian football’s governing body, the RFU, said it categorically disagreed with the decision and would challenge it in accordance with international sports law. Spartak Moscow called the decision “upsetting”, tweeting:

“We believe that sport, even in the most difficult times, should aim to build bridges, and not burn them.”

FIFA had previously ruled that Russia must complete their upcoming games in neutral territory, under the title Football Union of Russia, and without their flag and anthem.

However, that announcement had drawn criticism, and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland joined several other nations, including England, Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden, in refusing to play against Russia.

On Monday, Scottish FA president Rod Petrie wrote to his Ukrainian counterpart “to send a message of support, friendship and unity”, with those two nations due to meet in their World Cup play-off semi-final on 24 March.

The 2022 Champions League final, originally due to be played in St Petersburg on 28 May, has been moved to Paris while numerous clubs have taken their own steps to disassociate themselves from Russia.

Manchester United has terminated its sponsorship deal with Russia’s national airline Aeroflot while Bundesliga club Schalke has cancelled its partnership with main sponsor Gazprom, having last week removed the Russian energy company’s logo from its shirts.

Russia is in Northern Ireland’s European Under-21 Championship qualifying group and their meeting in March will be cancelled.

Speaking on Monday, Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said: “The whole world has to be compact and show [it is] solid against the stupidity of the people.”

He added: “I think it’s right to express our disappointment about the stupidity about some decisions. Football and Uefa has to be compact and to show to be strong.”

Russia is rapidly being reduced to the status of international sporting pariah. Of course this comes after Fifa was accused of not going far enough on Sunday instead allowing Russia to continue playing as ‘RFU’ with a ban on its flag and anthem.

The IOC heaped pressure on football by recommending that all sports enforce a total ban on Russia and Belarus.

This will undeniably prompt other sports to follow football’s lead.

There will also be those who say that the IOC could have gone further and say that ‘this is a decision, we are commanding all sports to ban Russian athletes’.

Whether they thought they had grounds to do so, legally, is another matter.

Some will also point to the Sochi 2014 Games and World Cup 2018 that Putin’s Russia was able to host and ask if this is all too late.

The IOC says it is urging sport governing bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants”, adding that “the current war in Ukraine puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma”.

It said there had been a “breach of the Olympic Truce” by those countries’ governments.

“While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country,” an IOC statement read.

The International Paralympic Committee is to meet today to discuss Russia, with the Winter Paralympics set to start two days later, running from 4-13 March.

The British Paralympic committee has called on Russians and Belarussians to be kicked out of the Games.

The British Olympic Association, along with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Germany, has demanded the immediate exclusion of Russia and Belarus from international sport.

The IOC said in their recommendations that wherever it was not possible to ban them from competing for organisational or legal reasons, such athletes should not compete under the name Russia or Belarus and should be classed as neutrals.

The Russian Olympic Committee has disagreed with the IOC, saying the decision “contradicts both the regulatory documents of the IOC and the [Olympic] Charter”.

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