Amid Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine, the sports world is actively taking steps to exclude Russia. Sporting organizations are wielding what power they can to make a statement.
Russian teams are being banned from international sporting events internationally. And sports organizations are canceling Russia’s sponsorship contracts in solidarity with Ukraine.
UEFA drops $45 million Gazprom sponsorship
The governing body of European football, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a statement on Monday. They have canceled their 10-year contract with Gazprom.
The Russian state-owned company has partnered with UEFA as its sponsor since 2012. The sponsorship contract is reportedly worth $45 million per season.
“UEFA has today decided to end its partnership with Gazprom across all competitions,” a statement from UEFA said. “The decision is effective immediately and covers all existing agreements including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA national team competitions and UEFA EURO 2024.”
The German football and sports club, Schalke, had agreements with Gazprom as its primary shirt sponsor. The club has now also severed all ties with the Russian company.
International football organizations ban Russia
In various unity moves across the globe, international football organizations have followed UEFA’s lead.
Monday’s UEFA statement also included the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). FIFA officially suspended any Russian national teams and club teams from competing in football internationally.
The announcement says that “football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine.”
Russian Football Union will appeal the FIFA and UEFA bans
The Russian Football Union (RFU) also made a statement regarding bans from FIFA and UEFA. They will pursue a lawsuit against the two organizations with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The RFU said that neither organization had a “legal basis when deciding on the removal of Russian teams.”
Russian football authorities maintain that UEFA and FIFA:
- Did not allow the RFU to defend its position.
- Did not consider alternate options outside of completely excluding Russia’s participants.
- Were swayed by pressure from Russia’s sports rivals.
Regarding the last point, the RFU refers to FIFA’s previous reaction to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
The organization initially ruled that Russian teams compete in upcoming games as the ‘Football Union of Russia.’ They would also compete without their anthem or flag and on neutral territory.
However, many participating nations criticized the lenient decision and refused to compete against Russia. Included among the objecting countries were Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, England, Wales,
FIFA then changed the ruling to a complete ban of Russian teams, which the RFU has called a violation of the “principle of sports and the rules of fair play.”
The Union wants their national teams reinstated for the men’s upcoming World Cup play-offs as well as the women’s summer Euro 2022 competition.
Russia’s men’s team was scheduled to compete against Poland’s team in the World Cup play-off semi-final on March 24.
If reinstatement is unsuccessful, Russian football authorities will push for complete cancelation of the events.
“If FIFA and UEFA refuse such a procedure,” the Russian Football Union’s said, “A requirement will be put forward for the introduction of interim measures in the form of suspension of FIFA and UEFA decisions, as well as competitions in which Russian teams were supposed to participate.”
NHL and IIHF ban Russia and Belarus until further notice
On Monday, February 28, the IIHF announced its ban on Russia and Belarus to prevent the countries from playing hockey internationally.
The ban includes the 2023 World Junior Championship, which both countries were set to compete in, and Russia was scheduled to host.
“The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine,” IIHF president, Luc Tardiff, said in a statement. “We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants.”
Tardiff added that the IIHF “must do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment for all teams taking part in the IIHF world championship program.”
The National Hockey League (NHL) suspended business relationships with Russia. Then, they took their bans on Russian and Belarus participation a step further.
“We are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL,” The organization reported Monday.
Furthermore, the NHL also said they will pause their “Russian language social and digital media sites.”
International Olympic Committee encourages excluding Russia
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board made a statement recommending that international sports organizers and federations either:
- Disallow Russian and Belarus officials and athletes in international competitions.
- Ensure “no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus.”
In a recent statement, the IOC reiterated its position.
“The IOC EB welcomes and appreciates the many calls for peace by athletes, sports officials, and members of the worldwide Olympic Community. The IOC admires and supports in particular the calls for peace by Russian athletes.”
The Committee “reaffirms its full solidarity with the Ukrainian Olympic Community” and has “established a solidarity fund.”
The IOC EB praised other sporting organizations for supporting athletes and families from Ukraine.