Russia responds to ‘discriminatory’ FIFA move


FIFA issued an updated ruling on Russia-based foreign players this week

The Russian football authorities have warned they could pursue legal action against FIFA after it extended a ruling which allows foreign players and coaching staff to unilaterally suspend their contracts at Russian clubs.

FIFA announced the move on Tuesday, continuing a policy initially introduced in March following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. Under the decision, any foreign player or coach at a Russian club can suspend their contract until June 30, 2023, without fear of punishment.

Responding in a joint statement on Friday, the Russian Football Union (RFU), Russian Premier League, and Russian clubs condemned the move as “discriminatory” and fundamentally damaging to the sport.   

“FIFA has repeatedly declared that sport should remain out of politics, but the position of the organization clearly contradicts this,” read the statement.

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Spartak Moscow's Jordan Larsson could be among those affected. © Mike Kireev / NurPhoto via Getty Images
FIFA issues decision on foreign footballers in Russia

“We believe that the decision to suspend contracts is contrary to the FIFA regulations, is discriminatory, and it was taken against one of the members of the football family in the absence of his fault. FIFA representatives never held any preliminary consultations and discussions with us.

“The decision completely destroys the principles of contractual stability and the integrity of the competition. It is openly stated that now football players and coaches have the right not to respect contractual obligations.

“In addition, questions of economic consequences for Russian football clubs are completely ignored. How to ensure long-term planning and financial stability in a situation where even the most valuable player can leave the team without any compensation? The contract can no longer fully protect both the club and the athlete. This precedent is a bad sign for the entire football industry,” it added.

The message called on clubs outside of Russia not to take advantage of the situation by attempting to tempt foreign stars away from the country while they remain under contract.  

“With the hope of preserving the principles laid down in the foundation of world sport, we want to address all members of the international football community. We ask you not to abuse the rights granted by FIFA, as their decision contradicts to the fundamental principles of the football family. In the future, a similar situation may affect any federation,” said the statement.

“Football should not divide but unite people in every corner of the globe. The decision will cause irreparable damage to the football industry in Russia. We reserve the right to apply to the courts to protect our interests.”

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Russia 2018 World Cup mascot Zabivaka won't appear at Qatar 2022 promo clip © Getty Images / Etsuo Hara
Russia 2018 mascot removed from Qatar 2022 promo video

The FIFA decision was likewise condemned by RFU president Alexander Dyukov, who branded it “contrary to FIFA standards and discriminatory.” 

“It is outrageous that no consultations and discussions were held with us by FIFA. Moreover, there are currently no mechanisms for financial compensation for clubs – this can lead to financial losses. Some sort of compensation mechanism could be envisaged,” said the RFU chief.

“FIFA’s decision creates a precedent – the contractual stability of clubs may be violated, and subsequently such decisions may be made in relation to clubs in other countries.”

Numerous Russian clubs have seen the departure of foreign players and coaching staff since the conflict with Ukraine broke out. Some have terminated contracts via mutual consent, although others saw players leave on loan last season as they took advantage of the initial FIFA ruling in March.

Just this week, Spartak Moscow’s former Chelsea star Victor Moses was reported as not arriving for pre-season training. Spartak’s Swedish forward Jordan Larsson has also signaled he would prefer another loan move at AIK in his homeland, rather than returning to Russia.

READ MORE: Russian football ‘annihilated,’ says Man Utd legend

Other clubs, most notably current Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg, have managed to retain their big-name foreign stars and have not faced the kind of exodus seen elsewhere.

Russian national team coach Valeri Karpin, who is also manager at club team Rostov, last season said that the situation could fundamentally undermine the competitive principles of the Russian league.

Should the RFU take legal action against FIFA, it would add to the cases which Russia already has pending against the global football governing body.

The RFU is awaiting a final decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland on whether the ban imposed on all Russian clubs from FIFA and UEFA competitions is legal.

Russian officials have also said they are seeking compensation for the decision by UEFA to strip St. Petersburg of the Champions League final last season. 

READ MORE: Poland banishes Russia-based star from national team

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