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Sports court confirms football bans imposed on Russian teams

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Russia remains barred from international soccer competitions, including the Champions League, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed appeals from the national soccer 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.

The ruling added that UEFA and FIFA had not exceeded their authority in dealing with “unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances”.

CAS said it was regrettable that UEFA and FIFA’s decisions following the invasion had “such a negative effect” on Russian football.

“But these effects were, in the opinion of the panel, outweighed by the need for the safe and orderly conduct of football events for the rest of the world,” CAS said.

Russia had been excluded this year from the qualifiers for the Men’s World Cup and the Women’s European Championship, and its clubs withdrawn from European competitions.

The latest CAS decision leaves national champion Zenit St. Petersburg out of the Champions League group stage. Sochi will be excluded from the Champions League third qualifying round draw, scheduled for Monday. If Russian teams had been allowed to participate, it was unclear where their home matches could be staged or even if their opponents would host them.

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 Russian 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.

UEFA said it “takes note of today’s CAS decisions which rejected the appeals” from the Russian FA and the clubs. FIFA said it also took note of the CAS decision.

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 current 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 qualifying for next year’s Women’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.

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.


More AP soccer: and—Sports

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