Sports court confirms football bans imposed on Russian teams
Russia remains barred from major European football competitions, including the Champions League, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed appeals from the national football federation and four clubs on Friday.
The CAS upheld UEFA and FIFA decisions that excluded Russian national teams and clubs following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russia were already excluded from the qualifiers for the Men’s World Cup and the Women’s European Championship. His clubs will not participate in competitions like the Champions League in 2022-23.
“The panel finds it regrettable that the ongoing military operations in Ukraine, for which Russian football teams, clubs and players themselves have no responsibility, have had, due to the decisions of FIFA and the UEFA, such a negative effect on them and on Russian football generally, but these effects were, in the opinion of the panel, outweighed by the need for a safe and orderly conduct of football events for the rest of the world” , the CAS said.
The decision adds that FIFA and UEFA did not exceed their authority in dealing with “unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances”.
The decision leaves national champion Zenit St. Petersburg out of the Champions League group stage. Another Russian team, Sochi, will be excluded from the Champions League third qualifying round draw, scheduled for Monday. If Russia had been allowed to participate, it was unclear where their home matches could be staged or whether Ukrainian clubs would boycott.
Friday’s decision was widely expected by Russian clubs. They have planned to schedule domestic cup games on the dates when European games are played next season.
The CAS did not call the fighting an “invasion” or a “war” – terms rejected by Russia, which calls its actions a “special military operation” – and did not assign blame.
Russia’s national football federation said it “completely disagrees with the CAS decision and reserves the right to continue to protect its own interests”. Next steps could include a compensation claim or a new appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court. The Swiss Federal Tribunal only reverses CAS decisions on limited grounds such as abuse of process.
Among those to benefit from the move is Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Russia’s exclusion means they retain a spot in the Champions League group stage as the second-highest-ranked country team. Shakhtar have not played in their hometown of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine since the region was taken over by Russian-backed separatists in 2014.
“Sport in Russia and football in particular are a major tool of state propaganda, advancing Russia’s policies of death and destruction,” Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin said in a statement. “And we thank the tribunal for echoing organizations from different sectors around the world in excluding and isolating Russia from any ‘normal existence’ until it ends the war against Ukraine and renounce all occupied Ukrainian territories.”
Ukrainian clubs will play their European matches next season at neutral venues abroad, with Shakhtar planning to host games in Poland.
After the invasion began in February, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic all pledged to boycott World Cup qualifiers against Russia scheduled for March. This left UEFA and FIFA to choose between excluding Russia or potentially allowing the Russian team to qualify by default.
The Russian men’s team was disqualified from the ongoing Nations League, leading to automatic relegation. Its next major competition will be in March, when qualifying for the 2024 European Championship begins. The women’s national team was replaced by Portugal at the European Championship in England this month and was dropped from the qualifying for next year’s World Cup. Russia also remain excluded from a series of youth and age group competitions.
The CAS must also hear other cases involving Russian athletes and teams in many other sports. Many governing bodies have justified Russia’s exclusion on security grounds similar to those cited by UEFA.
Olympic sports have mostly followed the lead of the International Olympic Committee, which says its recommendation to exclude athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus is intended to protect those competitors from possible harm.
The football cases were among the first to be decided by CAS due to the looming deadline for the Champions League qualifying draw.
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