Ukraine crisis: Fifa to suspend Russia as IOC calls for athletes’ suspension

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A screen saying Football Stands Together at Wembley in a show of support for Ukraine before the Carabao Cup final
There has been shows of support for Ukraine at football matches since Russia launched their invasion of the country last Thursday

Football’s world governing body Fifa is set to suspend Russia until further notice – as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommends that Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials are banned from any organised international competitions.

Fifa’s suspension would mean Russia’s exclusion from the men’s World Cup qualification play-offs in March.

The IOC has urged sport governing bodies not to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, with the Beijing Winter Paralympic Games starting in two days.

It comes after Russia, supported by Belarus, launched a military invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last Thursday.

Fifa had earlier 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, the announcement drew criticism – and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland joined several other nations, including England 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.

Russia are scheduled to face Poland in the play-offs on the same day, followed by a final meeting with the Czech Republic or Sweden on 29 March, should they win.

Russia’s women are also set to compete at the Women’s Euro 2022 in England in July where they are in a group with the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

Manchester City and Ukraine defender Oleksandr Zinchenko has backed callsexternal-link for sport governing bodies to ban Russian athletes from international competitions.

Zinchenko attended a vigil in Manchester last week to protest against the invasion.

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 – the official partner of the Uefa Champions League – having last week removed the Russian energy company’s logo from its shirts.

RB Leipzig chief executive officer Oliver Mintzlaff says the German club are assuming their Europa League last-16 tie against Russian side Spartak Moscow will be cancelled.

Leipzig are due to host Spartak on Thursday 10 March, with the second leg scheduled to take place on 17 March.

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.”

Bans needed to protect integrity of global sport – IOC

The 2022 Winter Paralympics take place in Beijing from 4-13 March
The 2022 Winter Paralympics take place in Beijing from 4-13 March

The International Paralympic Committee is to meet on Wednesday to discuss Russia, with the Winter Paralympics set to start on Friday.

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”external-link 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.

However, the IOC said 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”.

Government meets British sport bodies over Ukraine

On Monday, the UK government’s Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston met with several British sport governing bodies – including the Premier League, Football Association, UK Sport and British Olympic Association – to discuss the Ukraine situation.

The government has urged sports to continue with “visible signs of solidarity” with Ukraine and says it plans to talk with international counterparts later this week to mobilise further support to ostracise Russia from international sport.

What else is happening in sport?

Badminton’s world governing body (BWF) responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by announcing the cancellation of all tournaments in Russia and Belarus in addition to banning the national flags and anthems of the two nations.

“BWF will continue to monitor the situation closely and will proactively consult our international sport movement partners to discuss other options to potentially strengthen measures against the governments of Russia and Belarus,” it said.

The Ukrainian Tennis Federation has called on the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to expel Russia and Belarus from the organisation and ban Russia from individual and team tournaments.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, who became the ATP’s world number one on Monday, said he wanted to promote “peace all over the world” in a news conference on Friday during the Mexican Open.

The ITF said: “This is a fast-evolving situation; we are in active discussion with the ITF tennis family and the ITF board to decide and align around our next course of action.”

At the Fencing World Cup in Cairo on Sunday, Ukraine’s men’s foil team refused to fence against Russia.

Ukraine’s Klod Younes told BBC Radio 5 Live that he and his team-mates now intend to return home and defend their country.

“I knew before the competition [that I would not fence against them]. I told my team-mates and they supported me and said they would do the same,” Younes said.

“Today we are going to try to re-book our ticket and we will try to go to Poland, to Hungary, and then we will figure out what to do.”

On whether he and his team-mates will fight if necessary, he added: “Of course. This is our country. This is my country. I have to fight for it. I am defending my territory.”

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