Displaced competitions, European nations’ refusal to confront Russia, undesirable athletes declared, sponsors deleted or questioned: the Russian occupation of Ukraine is already having serious consequences for professional sport.
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Four years after the World Cup, Saint Petersburg was poised to return to the limelight of football fans. However, UEFA immediately announced that it was moving the Champions League final, the pinnacle of European club football, to Paris. Another issue to come for UEFA is its partnership with Gazprom, which appears to be under threat, which will be reviewed by the board next week.
Sochi is a symbolic place of Russian “soft power” in sports. The city that hosted the 2014 Winter Games has been hosting the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix since the same year, but that will not be the case this season because Formula 1, the organizer of the race, canceled it seven months before the race. afflicted.
The American Haas team questioned its partnership with Russian sponsor Uralkali, which did not display Russian colors in its single seats. The future of the Uralkali leader’s son, Nikita Mazepin, in F1 looks set to drive one of two single-seaters.
The International Football Federation (FIFA) pressured Russia on Sunday to play its matches under a neutral flag and play its home matches outside its home territory, under the name of the “Russian Football Federation” (RFU), following the invasion of Ukraine. But is Poland more categorical: refusing to face Russia in the 2022 World Cup play-off in Moscow on March 24, “whatever the name of the team” he repeated on Sunday and said he did not want to participate. an “appearance game”. The Swedes and Czechs, the Russians’ potential rivals in the next match, also continued their refusal to face Russia on Sunday.
What about the 2022 World Cup (21 November – 18 December Qatar)? Noël Le Graët, president of the French Football Federation (FFF) and member of the FIFA Council, has previously mentioned the possibility of Russia’s exclusion. “The world of sports, and especially football, cannot remain neutral. I certainly will not oppose the exclusion of Russia, ”the boss of French football, the world champion, whose election is reigning, said in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien on Sunday. In the evening, the British Federation announced that it would boycott all matches against Russia in the “near future”, not to mention the World Cup. However, FIFA did not decide not to exclude “the determination of possible sanctions, including exclusion from possible competitions in the near future, if the situation does not improve rapidly”.
Chelsea owner Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich announced on Saturday that he has entrusted “the management of Chelsea FC to the managers of the Chelsea charitable foundation”, still in a rather uncertain withdrawal.
Before the League Cup final between the Blues and Liverpool on Sunday afternoon, the captains of both teams entered the pitch with a wreath of blue and yellow flowers, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The meeting ended with a one-minute applause.
Manchester United announced on Friday that it has “cancelled” its sponsorship contract with Aeroflot, which has been banned from entering British airspace. In Germany, D2 club Schalke 04 has removed the Gazprom logo and name from their jerseys.
The International Olympic Committee, which generally refrains from commenting on geopolitics, has urged international sports federations to cancel or relocate any planned event in Russia or Belarus. He also wants the flags of these two countries not to be hoisted and their anthems not to be played.
In line with this call, the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced that all competitions in Russia were canceled until the end of the season “for the safety of all participants”.
Also, following the call of the IOC, the International Biathlon Federation (IBU) banned the anthems and flags of Russia and Belarus during World Cup events, where the Ukrainian flag would be systematically hoisted. of the season.
Ukrainian fencers, who will face their Russian counterparts in the team qualifying stage of the World Cup in Cairo on Sunday, have decided to withdraw from the competition. Dressed in yellow and blue, the male team members held up banners in English: “Stop Russia! Stop the War!” ; “Save Ukraine! Save Europe.”
The four major boxing organizations – IBF, WBC, WBA and WBO – announced on Saturday that they would not allow championships in Russia. “While this war ends boxing in Ukraine, our organizations will not allow fights in Russia until the situation is reassessed,” the statement said.
The World Volleyball Championship in Russia, scheduled from August 26 to September 11, has not yet moved, but it looks very threatened. The French Olympic champions will not be there in any case: the Federation has announced that if the Blues continue in Russia, they will not participate in the tournament.
Russia, a great nation in this sport, also lost the organization of the group stage matches of the League of Nations for women from June 28 to July 3 in Ufa and for men from July 5 to 10 in Kemerovo.
The IJF announced on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a successful judoka, was suspended from the status of honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation.
The Swedish government on Saturday called for Russia’s complete exclusion from all sporting competitions of EU countries. The Norwegian and Swedish ski federations have already announced that Russian athletes are not welcome on their territory for events in their home country next month.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel also warned that “national teams of countries that were complicit” in the occupation of Ukraine would no longer be welcome in the UK. In fact, the visas of Belarusian basketball players who will play in Newcastle on Sunday have been cancelled.
Nantes club in France announced on Saturday that it has refused to host Moscow club Chekovskie Medvedi for a meeting at the European Handball Cup, scheduled for Tuesday.
Apart from the matches in which they are directly involved, the Russian clubs ranked in Euroleague basketball (St. Petersburg, Kazan and CSKA Moscow) will have to play their Euroleague home matches abroad. Same for European club football matches.