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Uefa torn over plans to reinstate Russian youth teams

President Aleksander Ceferin is under pressure to rethink Uefa’s reintigration plans due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Sunday 08 October 2023 17:52 BST

The fall-out from Uefa’s plans to reinstate Russian underage teams to European competition is causing a huge split within the governing body, putting president Aleksander Ceferin under immense pressure to “revisit” the issue at this week’s Executive Committee meeting.

The controversy has already caused the confederation vice-president Karl-Erik Nilsson to resign as boss of the Swedish Sports Confederation and led Denmark to become the latest association to say they will not play Russian sides to go with England, Ireland and Ukraine.

The Independent has been told that there is tension within some national associations that didn’t immediately reject the idea out of hand.

There is similarly huge dissatisfaction among other federations for the manner in which the issue was raised by Uefa at the last meeting, with Ceferin simply bringing it up under “any other business” – according to one source – with “no prior notice”. There was huge surprise at this, and it has been viewed with the context of Fifa’s decision to do the same.

That has caused Uefa to bring it onto the agenda for Tuesday’s ExCo meeting, where it will also be confirmed that Euro 2028 is going to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Various sources have insisted the Russia decision could be amended, such is the strength of feeling around it.

Senior national and club teams nevertheless remain banned regardless, as has been the case since February 2022. A statement on 26 September said:

“Uefa was the first sports body to react to the war in Ukraine and took decisive action in February 2022 - suspending all Russian teams from its competitions, removing events scheduled in Russia like the Uefa Champions League final in Saint Petersburg and the Uefa Super Cup in Kazan, and cancelling its sponsorship contract with Gazprom.

“However, Uefa is also aware that children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults and is firmly convinced that football should never give up sending messages of peace and hope.

“It is particularly aggrieving that, due to the enduring conflict, a generation of minors is deprived of its right to compete in international football. 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. In this respect, 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.

“All matches of the Russian teams shall be played without the country flag, anthem, national playing kit and not on the Russian territory.

“At the same time, the Executive Committee reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s illegal war and confirmed that the suspension of all other teams of Russia (clubs and national teams) will remain in force until the end of the conflict in Ukraine.”

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