In 2018, Russian football garnered international sporting acclaim – hosting and winning the admired World Cup off the field as the national team reached the quarter-finals for the first time in post-Soviet history.
However, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, European football clubs have now cut ties with Russian companies, sports organizations are moving events outside the country, and players and fans around the world are sending messages of support to Ukraine.
As long as the war continues, there will likely be more consequences for Russian sport, both in the short and long term.
Poland and Sweden announced, on Saturday, their refusal to face Russia in the final qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Polish President Andrzej Duda approved the decision, writing on social media: “You don’t play with bandits!”
There is now increasing pressure on the International Football Association (FIFA) and European regulator, the European Football Association (UEFA), to ban Russia and its clubs from international competitions.
It’s a far cry from 2018 when Russian President Vladimir Putin was photographed smiling at World Cup matches alongside world leaders and FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
said Simon Chadwick, professor of Eurasian sports at Emlyon Business School for the island.
Since Putin took power in 1999, Russia has increasingly invested in the sports industry, hosting many major international events and competitions. Russian companies have signed major sports sponsorship agreements and Russian businessmen have invested heavily in football clubs.
While the invasion of Ukraine drew widespread condemnation, James Corbett, chief correspondent for football financial website Off The Pitch, said he doubted Russia would be banned from major sporting events.
“Four years after hosting the World Cup, Russia invaded Crimea and no one has batted an eyelid,” Corbett told Al Jazeera.
“In a similar way, [Russia] She left the Olympics on her knees with horrific cheating, but she was still allowed to compete,” he said, referring to the state-run doping program.
Corbett also believes that there is some hypocrisy in the calls to keep Russia out.
For example, Britain was in an illegal occupation of Iraq when it was granted [in 2005] London Olympics.
The situation may be an inconvenience to FIFA, but overall, the sports world has been quick to respond to Russian aggression and to cut or reduce ties with business partners and sponsors.
A day after Aeroflot was banned from UK airspace, Manchester United announced it was ending its agreement with Russia’s largest airline.
Germany’s Schalke 04 have removed the name of Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom from their shirts, UEFA has shifted the May Champions League final from Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg to Paris, and Formula 1 has taken the grand prix away from Russia, and one of its teams, Haas , removed all livery of Uralkali potash product from its cars.
In addition, the International Olympic Committee urged all sports organizations to Transfer Their events are from Russia.
However, Chadwick says reversing years of Moscow’s investment and involvement in the sport will be difficult.
“There is an interrelationship with Russia, and not just in football, that has been entrenched over the past two decades and it will be difficult for European sports organizations to abandon it,” Chadwick said.
“Efa knew during the pandemic that matches were easy to move, so they made a move in moving the final at a relatively low cost,” Chadwick added, but it would cost UEFA $45 million a year if it decided to end the sponsorship deal. with Gazprom.
“If UEFA are really serious about their stance on Russia, we should expect them to finalize this Gazprom deal in the coming weeks,” Chadwick said.
Meanwhile, Corbett says that Russian companies that want to sponsor major international events or European teams in the future may find it more difficult “because they are part of a pariah state and clubs and events will not want to be associated with it”.
As for the companies themselves, they usually don’t sell anything to the public – it’s about getting legitimacy. The old joke “let’s go buy some Gazprom” after watching a Champions League match has some credibility. Who buys Gazprom or USM [a sponsor of English Premier League club Everton] Or choose Aeroflot over other brands? Whatever they do in the future, they will have questions hanging over them.”
For European champion Chelsea, the relationship with Russia is much deeper than care. The Premier League team is the highest sporting asset that a Russian has in Europe. After taking over at Stamford Bridge in 2003, owner Roman Abramovich’s massive investment turned Chelsea into one of the most successful companies in the world.
On the day of the invasion, British MP Chris Pyrant proposed to Parliament that the UK confiscate Abramovich’s assets and prevent him from owning the London Club. Two days later, Abramovich announced that he would transfer management of Chelsea to the trustees of his charitable foundation, although he would remain the club’s owner.
“That’s important in terms of Abramovich’s investment in Chelsea but it’s not just about him, there’s also [Chelsea’s Russian-Canadian director] “Marina Granovskaya is playing a really pivotal role in Chelsea’s signing strategy,” Chadwick said.
Strong penalties may affect how the club conducts its business.
“You can find these people being monitored, movement restricted, visa denied, and cross-border movement of assets frozen which may involve transfer fees,” he said.
One potential sanctions being discussed is cutting Russia off from SWIFT, a global payments system.
Iranian football struggled to operate outside the system – An official at the Iranian National Federation said to Al Jazeera that the organization had struggled to raise money owed by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, while clubs had problems receiving transfer fees from abroad.
Russian footballers and athletes will wait to see what happens in the coming weeks and months as European sports teams, organizations and players decide how to respond to the war.
“It all comes down to how you see money and politics and what you think is the trade-off,” Chadwick said. “You may have to sacrifice economically but politically and maybe even morally, you can make a point.”
The initial reaction from the sport in Europe may be swift but there is still a long way to go.
“It remains to be seen whether Europe can sustain this,” Chadwick said. “But if this is the long-term path, then Russian football will find itself increasingly isolated and may be in trouble.”
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