Sports court explains rejection of Russian World Cup appeal

CAS has explained why it refused to lift a ban on Russia competing in international football

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has said its decision to reject an appeal by Russia of their ban from competing in international football was due to concerns of theoretically harming the integrity of international football if other nations refused to fulfil fixtures with Russia.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) was hit with a suspension from FIFA competition in the wake of the country's military operation in Ukraine, however the RFU had petitioned world football's governing body to delay the ban pending a full hearing by CAS, which crucially would have allowed the Russian men's team to play scheduled 2022 World Cup playoff qualifying matches.

The football associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic – each a potential opponent of Russia – had outlined their refusal to play against Valeri Karpin's team regardless of which name or flag the team competed under.

Similar claims were made by both Malta and Montenegro, who were due to play the Russian women's team.

The RFU, though, appealed the decision on the basis that refusing Russia's right to play would cause harm to the country's footballing objectives and would hurt its international ranking and sponsorship possibilities.

It also said Russia would willingly allow games to be played with no spectators and with enhanced security protocols – with the RFU footing the bill for the latter.

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FIFA, meanwhile, had argued that other football nations refusing to play Russia could essentially bring the sport into disrepute – an opinion which was ultimately shared by the CAS.

“It is undisputed that the Appellant’s teams have a legitimate interest in participating in FIFA competitions, came the ruling from CAS President of the Appeals Arbitration Division Corinne Schmidhauser.

“On the other hand, the Division President agrees with FIFA that it has an undeniable interest in maintaining and ensuring the smooth running and the integrity of its competitions.

“Apart from UEFA, none of the other Respondents have provided any comments on the Appellant’s request for provisional measures. However, the Polish, Swedish and Czech FAs have publicly announced their decision not to play against Russia.

“In other words, should the Appellant’s men’s national team be allowed to play, their opponents would forfeit the game and the matches would not even take place. The integrity of FIFA competitions would be severely damaged.

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The CAS ruling also claimed that other nations would have legitimate security concerns about playing in Russia.

“The Division President further considers that the security of the opposing teams, players, officials and the Russian players themselves prevail over the Appellant’s interests, said the statement.

“The Appellant itself admits that 'additional expenses for security measures' would be necessary.

“In light of the worldwide outrage and condemnation provoked by the events currently unfolding in Ukraine, it is doubtful whether enhanced security measures would be sufficient to guarantee the security of the players, coaching staff and other team personnel.

A proposal to allow Russia to play its fixtures and potentially remove and replace them from the World Cup at a later date was also rejected.

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However, responding to Tuesday's statement from CAS, the Russian football authorities noted that they were still awaiting a definitive ruling on the bans imposed by FIFA and UEFA.

“Today, CAS published the reasoning part of the decision to refuse to satisfy the requests of the RFU for interim measures in the framework of claims filed against FIFA and UEFA. This document is in addition to previously published decisions," said an RFU statement. 

“At the same time, we would like to draw attention to the fact that the document does not apply to the consideration of claims against UEFA and FIFA on the merits [of the decisions]. The process is ongoing, it is expected that hearings in CAS will be held in early May.” 

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