How International Sports is Responding to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Jill Shapiro '23, Staff Writer

A popular characteristic of major sports organizations such as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee is their neutrality over political issues. Many of the higher-ups in these organizations rely on the governments of many different nations, and are reluctant to speak out against any issues involving said people. Despite this, as the Russia-Ukraine crisis continues to impact the whole world, some of the strongest statements and movements against the fighting have come from the world of sports. 


On February 28th, the International Olympic Committee, recommended that sports events not allow Russian or Belarusian athletes to compete in international competitions. This is notable because they did not just call for a ban on Olympic-related sporting events but all sporting events across the world. The IOC also barred all Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paralympic Games in Beijing on March 3, the day before they started. This was in light of other countries and teams threatening to boycott the games if no action was taken. 


Another major sporting group that spoke out was the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of Formula 1 racing and other international motorsports, who released a statement on February 25 suspending the Russian Grand Prix which was to be held during the upcoming 2022 Formula 1 season. Along with these actions, one of the 10 teams, the Haas F1 team, has terminated the contract of their Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and also the sponsorship from Russian fertilizer company Uralkali. 


Club soccer has been another outspoken group in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. UEFA, which is the governing body of soccer in Europe, has moved the Champions League final from its predetermined location of St. Petersburg, Russia to Paris. Before their UEFA Europa League match on February 24th, players from FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli held up a banner in front of the camera which read “STOP WAR”. The Premier League, which is the highest league of soccer in England, has indefinitely suspended broadcasting in Russia. Their partnership with Rambler, also known as Okko Sport, was suspended and the league has donated 1 million euros to help the people in Ukraine. 


The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the governing body of international soccer, has banned Russia from participating in all events. UEFA quickly followed with a statement agreeing. This means that not only the Russian national teams are banned from participating in soccer matches but clubs such as Spartak Moscow are not allowed to play in any international competition. This resulted in them being disqualified from their UEFA Europa League game against RB Leipzig, which was scheduled to take place on March 10th. They have also been indefinitely banned from the tournament.


Alongside club soccer, numerous national soccer federations have released statements refusing to play against Russia in any competition or friendly matches as well as refusing to play any matches inside the country. The first countries to do so were Poland, the Czech Republic, and Sweden, who released a joint statement on February 24th insisting the scheduled World Cup qualifying matches scheduled by UEFA not be played in Russia. On February 26th, the Polish Football Association released a statement refusing to play Russia in their World Cup qualification playoff match. Other countries’ soccer associations such as the United States and Switzerland, have also released statements refusing to let play Russia in any capacity. 


The realm of sports helps unite the world behind thousands of teams and hundreds of games. The eruption of public displays against the Russia-Ukraine conflict by major organizations and teams in sports has demonstrated that a notoriously neutral figment of society no longer will remain neutral .