- Russia was handed a total ban by both UEFA and FIFA in February 2022
- A number of sports organisations allow Russian athletes to compete as neutrals
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UEFA has partially lifted the complete ban on Russian teams competing in the organisation’s tournaments in place since the country’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The governing body was swift to hand down a total ban on both national and club sides in the wake of Russian aggression 18 months ago, and the organisation’s president Aleksander Ceferin stated in April that it would be ‘very hard’ to overturn the ruling as long as Russia remained involved in the conflict.
FIFA acted similarly, and Russia were banned from competing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite having qualified for the play-off rounds prior to the invasion.
The 2022 Champions League final venue was also move from the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg to Stade de France in Paris.
However, as per Sky Sports, the ban is set to be eased somewhat with the reintroduction of youth teams under the age of 17 into international competition.
Aleksander Ceferin has said that most of UEFA’s initial ban will remain in place until the end of the conflict
Russia are barred from competing internationally but recently played a friendly against Qatar
Any ties featuring the youth sides will be played on neutral ground, and the teams will not be able to either wear the Russian national team strip, nor play the national anthem before kick-off.
Alongside the ban, UEFA issued a statement that said that the organisation’s executive committee ‘reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s illegal war and confirmed that the suspension of all other teams of Russia (including clubs and national teams) will remain in force until the end of the conflict in Ukraine’.
The statement added that the committee were ‘aware that children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults.
‘For these reasons, the UEFA Executive Committee has decided that Russian teams of minor players will be readmitted to its competitions in the course of this season.
‘The Executive Committee has asked the UEFA administration to propose a technical solution that would enable the reinstatement of the Russian U17 teams (both girls and boys) even when draws have already been held.’
Other sports organisations including the IOC and the All England Club have meted out restrictions to athletes from both Belarus and Russia, due to the former’s support for Vladimir Putin’s government.
However, UEFA did not extend the same restrictions to the state, with the country’s league winners last term BATE Borisov competing in the qualifying rounds in this year’s Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League competitions – albeit with little success.
Belarus are also playing to featuring in the 2024 European Championship, and will face Romania and Switzerland in their next spate of qualifiers following a draw with Andorra and defeat by Israel over the last international break.
In April, Russia discussed the possibility of lifting the ban after u-turning on a proposed switch to the Asian Football Confederation.
‘We are negotiating with UEFA about the restoration, removal of bans, negotiations are difficult, these are long conversations that go on all the time,’ RFU Secretary General Maxim Mitrofanov told Russia’s official state news agency TASS at the time.
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Belarus have escaped a formal ban but Ceferin previously hinted that their involvement in Euro 2024 could be up for discussion
‘UEFA does not want the RFU to leave, and the RFU does not want to leave, but nevertheless, it is very important to restore the games for the clubs, youth teams and the first team, of course we want to play.’
The lines remain blurred within the sports world as to how to continue to react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with a number of organisations choosing to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals.
The All England Club lifted their ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players competing at Wimbledon this year under pressure from the ATP and WTA, who stripped the competition of their ranking points in 2022 after the restriction was first put in place.
Russian and Belarusian participation at the 2024 Olympics remains contentious, with some countries calling for the total ban of athletes from the two allies and others solely seeking the nations be banned from team sports.
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