Fifa and Uefa suspend Russian teams from international and club game

Uefa also cancels its €40 million a year sponsorship deal with Gazprom

Following sustained outrage and the threat of boycott by member nations, Fifa and Uefa have suspended all Russian teams from their international and club football competitions in a delayed reaction to the military invasion of Ukraine.

The two governing bodies, in a joint statement released on Monday, said all Russian teams are suspended from participation in both Fifa and Uefa competitions “until further notice”.

Both Fifa and Uefa “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” .

Uefa have also cancelled its €40 million a year sponsorship deal with Gazprom, “effective immediately,” so the Russian state-owned energy corporation will no longer sponsor the Champions League and Euro 2024 in Germany.


Fifa had initially followed the lead taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban the Russian flag and anthem yet allow their teams compete under the "Football Union of Russia (RFU)" banner.

However, on Monday morning, 10 football associations, including the FAI, supported Poland’s refusal to play Russia in the World Cup qualifier on March 24th, which in turn put the emphasis on Fifa to respond with stronger sanctions.

Sweden and the Czech Republic had also pulled out of a potential World Cup qualifier on March 29th, should Russia be allowed to progress towards Qatar 2022.

On Sunday Fifa had adopted the “recommendations” of the IOC, falling short of removing Russian teams from international competition as punishment for “the use of force by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine”.

The Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza instantly responded by boycotting this month's qualification playoff against the RFU.

“Fifa’s decision is totally unacceptable,” said Kulesza. “We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances. Our stance remains intact: Polish National Team will not play with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is.

“Due to the disgraceful decision of Fifa, the Polish FA sent a letter to all football federations in Europe. We presented our position and encouraged them to stand by our side. Because only united we will be strong. No indulgence for Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Russia, as a result, have also been removed from the women’s European Championships in England this summer, with Portugal expected to take their place, while Spartak Moscow are kicked out of the Europa League.

Aggressive actions

Uefa had already moved the Champions League final from Russian president Vladimir Putin’s home town St Petersburg to Paris.

The IOC influenced Fifa’s U-turn by announcing all Russian and Belarusian athletes should be excluded from international events, but where this is not possible “on short notice for organisational or legal reasons”, an example being next month’s Paralympics, they can compete as “neutral” athletes or teams.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino, when asked last week if he would return the Order of Friendship medal given to him by Putin in 2019 and whether sport has helped legitimise the aggressive actions of Russia, replied: "I firmly believe that sport brings people together. Football is the people's sport. It is not about individuals, it is about all the people from all over the world."

Following the stance taken by Poland, the FAI moved to express solidarity with Ukraine and other football nations by refusing to play Russia “whilst the current situation prevails”.

“I can confirm that we will not consider any international fixture against any Russian side, no matter what the level, until further notice,” said FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill.

Taking a leaf out of 10 Downing Street’s book, the FAI and the IRFU decided to light up the Aviva Stadium in Ukrainian colours at 7pm on Monday night.

“We have confirmed to our colleagues at the Ukraine Association of Football that the FAI stands firmly alongside them in light of this terrible situation,” said FAI president Gerry McAnaney.

“We will join with the IRFU and Aviva Insurance to turn the Aviva Stadium yellow and blue this evening and I am sure that fans at our League of Ireland games tonight will also show their support for the people of the Ukraine.”

Neutral venue

Ireland’s Nations League tie against Ukraine on June 4th at the Aviva Stadium is set to go ahead but Uefa have confirmed that the away tie on June 14th, initially fixed for the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, will be moved to a neutral venue.

Manchester United had already withdrawn from a deal with Russian airline Aeroflot and German club Schalke 04 ended a 15-year sponsorship deal with Gazprom.

On Saturday night, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich passed “stewardship and care” of the club to the Chelsea charitable foundation while a spokeswoman for the oligarch said he was attempting to broker peace between Ukraine and Russia.

Piara Power, one of the Chelsea foundation’s six trustees, has described Putin as a “war-monger”. The BBC understands that Abramovich is not seeking an immediate return on a £1.5 billion loan to the club.

“The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating,” Chelsea said in a statement before losing Sunday’s Carabao Cup final to Liverpool. “Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent