News   |    February 28th, 2022

FOOTBALL MUST ACT

In modern day Europe many people enjoy visiting different cities across the continent. The Second World War destroyed large areas of Europe and I never dreamed in my lifetime that we would once again see war waged in Europe.

How wrong could I be when last week Russia launched a military offensive against Ukraine. Ukraine is a sovereign European country, and such an invasion cannot be allowed to succeed. In recent days there has already been too much bloodshed and often innocent families are the principal victims. People fleeing to Poland in the numbers they are is going to cause a humanitarian disaster and as a country and a continent we cannot stand by and watch this human disaster unfold.

Apart from the provision of equipment the Government and other like-minded Governments are targeting Russian banks and wealthy Russian individuals and that is why Roman Abramovic at Chelsea has moved quickly to hand day to day control of the club to its charitable trust. Sanctions by the 27-member European Union has targeted 351 Russian politicians who voted for recognising the two separatist regions in Ukraine. Another 27 Russian officials and institutions from the defence and banking sectors are also facing sanctions from the EU.

The US and EU are considering sanctions that could block Russia’s access to the financial markets and it is now certain that Russia will be excluded from the global financial messaging service, SWIFT. Russia could face serious delays in payments for its oil and gas exports if this sanction is imposed.

I have never been a fan of sport interfering in politics, but this is a war situation in Europe by an aggressor. The sporting sanctions need to be swift and decisive. Russia has already been stripped of hosting the Champions League final. Soccer’s showpiece game will be played in Paris instead of St. Petersburg on May 28th. It also decided that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams in UEFA competitions will have to play at neutral venues until further notice.

In my view Russia should be excluded from playing in the World Cup in Qatar if they do not withdraw from Ukraine by a set date. The same should apply to Russian clubs in European competitions.

With a situation this grave and the impending huge loss of life, UEFA simply cannot take just the Champions League Final away and think they have done enough. They and FIFA need to act decisively now and not despatch this to a group of committees to put into the long grass.

Set a date this week for the withdrawal of Russia and its clubs from all competitions or they must face the sporting consequences. Russia is a football loving country and action of this kind will cause widespread upset in the country but that is a small price to pay when Ukrainians are facing such a considerable loss of life.

Image Credit: Twitter: @EFL_Comms

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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