UEFA chief says ‘very hard’ to lift Russia ban until war ends

European football’s governing body has banned Russian teams from its competitions following the invasion of Ukraine.

Aleksander Ceferin, president of UEFA, delivers a speech at the start of the 47th ordinary UEFA congress in Lisbon
Aleksander Ceferin was re-elected president of UEFA unopposed at the 47th Ordinary Congress in Lisbon [Armando Franca/AP Photo]

Re-elected UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin says it would be very difficult to lift Russia’s suspension from the European football governing body’s competitions until the war in Ukraine ends.

“My personal opinion is: that, until the war stops, it will be very hard for us to change anything,” Ceferin told a news conference during UEFA’s Ordinary Congress in Lisbon on Wednesday.

Both UEFA and world football’s governing body, FIFA, decided in February 2022 that all Russian teams – national and club sides – would be suspended from participation in their competitions following the invasion.

Most international sport federations have excluded athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus since the invasion, but some are now starting to allow them back into competitions.

Belarus’s national football side and its domestic teams can compete in European competitions, but their home games must take place on neutral ground and behind closed doors.

Ceferin said a decision to ban Belarus from qualifying for the 2024 European Championship could “only be made by the UEFA executive committee” and that the situation would continue to be monitored until the committee’s next meeting on June 28.

Ceferin was re-elected as UEFA president unopposed during the Ordinary Congress on Wednesday. The 55-year-old Slovenian has been re-elected for a four-year term until 2027.

Ceferin was elected UEFA’s seventh president in 2016 to replace Michel Platini, who was banned from football administration in 2015 for ethics violations and forced to quit UEFA in 2016 after losing his appeal against his ban.

In Lisbon, seven people – all men – were elected as members of UEFA’s executive committee for a four-year term. Laura McAllister was also elected for the “reserved female member position”.

Asked if it was a missed opportunity for UEFA in terms of diversity, Ceferin said it was a “democratic election” and that he could not tell delegates how to vote, adding, “That’s how it is.”

Ceferin was also questioned about UEFA’s work to fight discrimination.

In a recent case, Real Madrid’s Brazil international Vinicius accused Spain’s La Liga of continuing to do nothing about racist fans at matches after videos on social media showed some supporters shouting abuse and throwing objects at him during a match in December.

“I want it to be heard that we will try to be tougher in this direction because the level of discrimination is rising in Europe and elsewhere, too,” Ceferin said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ceferin there was a need to target offenders more effectively, adding “maybe” it was “time to go with harsher measures” and “put some people in court”.

Source: News Agencies