The biggest news around the world right now is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Because of the amount of violence and damage that is being caused by Vladimir Putin, people have started to find ways to support Ukraine, and punish Russia. One of the places where this is happening is in the world of football. There have been many players, leagues, brands, and organisations who have spoken out about the conflict, have demonstrated support towards Ukraine and have had to make changes due to the situation.
UEFA and FIFA’s Response
Uefa (Union of European Football Associations) and Fifa (Federation Internationale de Football Association) are the biggest football organisations in the world. They are recognized for the biggest tournaments in the world, for example, the Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Nations League, and Eurocopa which are all organised by UEFA, or all the world cups, which are organised by FIFA. Due to this, they have a very important and big voice in football and because of the conflict have had to make changes.
One of the most recognized changes was how UEFA had to change the location of where their biggest tournament, the Champions League, final was going to be held. The original location chosen for the 2022 final was St.Petersburg, a city in Russia, and it was going to be held in the Gazprom Arena home turf to one of the biggest clubs in Russia called Zenit. Due to the ongoing conflict, UEFA decided to move the final to the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France.
Uefa has also decided to suspend all Russian teams from all of their competitions. This means that the teams competing in the champions league, Europa League, or the conference league would be instantly removed from the tournaments. Because of this, Spartak Moskow, who had reached the Round of 16 in the Europa League, was not allowed to play against RB Leipzig, so the German side automatically qualified for the quarter-finals.
Fifa has done the same thing as UEFA but with the Russian National Team. Initially, they had allowed them to compete with the name “Football Union of Russia”, but not play any games in their country or display flags. Later they decided to suspend them from all matches. Because of this, Russia will not be able to play their European world cup qualifier playoff semi-final against Poland. This means that they are out of the 2022 Qatar World Cup and that Poland go directly to the final to play against Sweden or Czech Republic for the world cup spot.
They have also accepted the request from the Ukrainian national team, who also had a European world cup qualifier against Scotland, and have requested to postpone the match due to the conflict. This request has been accepted and the match is expected to be played in June. The winner of this match will go against Whales or Austria for a place in the Qatar World Cup.
Another big story that has been an effect of the Russia Ukraine conflict is the situation with Chelsea Football Club. The London based club has encountered various problems due to them being owned by Roman Abramovich, a billionaire Russian oligarch that has had very long and close ties to Vladimir Putin, and is considered to be one of Putin's supporters as he is a major shareholder of the steel group Evraz, one of Russia's major taxpayers. Because of this, the British Government has placed sanctions as a way of pressuring Putin through him.
Initially, the government started by giving him a travel ban and not letting him stay at his mansion in London. Due to this and growing threats of further consequence, Abramovic had decided that he would sell the club because of the possible risk and damages that the situation could bring to the club. He decided that all the money he got from the sale would be donated to help Ukrainian refugees who have lost everything because of this situation. Some of the potential buyers were: UFC fighter Connor McGregor, A group of businessmen led by American Todd Beohley and The Saudi Media Group.
Later on, the Government decided to freeze all of Abramovich’s assets in the UK, which put the Chelsea sale on hold. It also means that new contracts, player transfers or official merchandise sales for Chelsea had been officially prohibited, that only season ticket holders can go to games, and Chelsea’s bank account has been temporarily suspended. The way to get out of this is for Chelsea to apply for a special licence.
This is a very big problem for the club because of the money they could lose, as they cannot make as much money due to the main ways the club profits being all frozen for them. Another issue is with the players because they cannot sign new contracts, so players whose contracts are ending would not be able to resign from the club. Some of the important names that have expiring contracts are German defender Antonio Rudiger, Danish defender Andreas Christensen and Spanish midfielder Saul Ñíguez.
Another major problem that has come from the situation is that two of Chelsea's main sponsors: Three, a British telecommunications and internet service provider, Hyundai, a South Korean multinational automotive manufacturer, and Zapp, a delivery app, have suspended their contracts with the team. This is a very big issue as a big part of the club's income comes from the main sponsorships, and without them, their profits will drastically be affected.
All around the footballing world, many players, leagues, and teams have decided to speak about the situation and raise awareness about the situation. Many players have used t-shirts to raise awareness when scoring and some leagues and teams have decided to display the Ukrainian flag.
Some teams have started to bring banners for the pre-match picture of the two teams. Manchester United did this when playing Watford in the premier league and took a picture of both teams together, the sign said “Peace” in different languages and had the peace sign in the middle. Barcelona and Napoli also held a sign, when playing for the Europa League round of 16, the sign said “Stop War”. Many other teams such as Milan and Internazionale also did this to raise awareness and demonstrate worldwide support towards Ukraine.
Players have worn shirts under, which had images, symbols or have writing speaking against the situation and have also worn bands around their arms with the colours of Ukraine to demonstrate their support. Some examples are Lewandowski, a Polish striker from FC Bayern Munich who wore a band for awareness. Ukrainian player Ruslan Malinovsky, Atalanta attacker, scored in the Europa League fixture against Olympiacos and lifted his shirt to show the message “No War In Ukraine ''.
Effect on Ukrainian Players
This conflict has negatively affected Ukrainian players, who have been worried about their country, families, and friends that are still in Ukraine and at risk of an attack from Russia. Because of this, many players have stepped back from football for a while or have gone through emotional rollercoasters.
Premier League players Oleksandr Zinchenko, Manchester City defender and Andriy Yarmolenko, Westham's middle fielder had decided to step back from football for a while. Zinchenko has still not returned to the pitch as he stated that he is really worried about the situation, but Yarmolenko has come back to football and had an emotional first game back as when he scored he fell into tears. Later he reflected on the situation in his country and said “It is very hard for me to think about football because of the situation in my country”.
Another situation is the many foreign players who play for teams in Ukraine that are trying to get out of the country due to the danger of this war with Russia. Brazilian players from Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv have appealed to their government to be rescued from Ukraine and also posted images of the families and players, who are all living in a hotel because of the risks.
This conflict between Ukraine and Russia has had a massive impact on the world of Football, and many people are trying to use the sport as a way to reach the public and be able to show support and raise awareness. All players and teams hope that the situations can end quickly and that football can go back to normal without as much politics and issues having to be talked about.