Keep your feet still and wait! That seems to be the motto of sports associations and clubs in the course of the escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. However, the impending military conflicts in eastern Ukraine are having a few effects, especially on Ukrainian athletes.
The European Handball Federation EHF was the first umbrella organization to take action and announced on Tuesday that no international games should be played in Ukraine for the next four weeks. “The EHF always strives to protect the integrity of its competitions,” wrote federation president Michael Wiederer on Tuesday on the EHF website. “At the same time, the safety of players and officials has top priority.” However, this cannot be guaranteed in Ukraine at the moment.
Men’s champions Motor Zaporizhia, based in a region between Donetsk and Russia’s long-annexed Crimean Peninsula, are set to play their two remaining Champions League home games against Paris and Barcelona in March in Slovakia. A double match day against the Czech Republic is planned for the European Championship qualifiers for the Ukrainian women. So the Ukrainians have to give up their home rights.
So far, Russian organizers have not had to fear anything like that, even if the political pressure on the associations is growing. The final of the Champions League, Europe’s most important club competition in football, is scheduled to take place on May 28 in St. Petersburg, the hometown of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Europe’s football union Uefa stuck to the venue on Tuesday. The situation will continue to be monitored, it said briefly.
Politicians demand consequences in sport
The Greens member of the Bundestag, Philip Kramer, described this as “absolutely insane”. It was “very perfidious to organize a sporting celebration with representatives of the Russian regime” while there was a war in Ukraine “that was instigated by this Russian regime,” said the deputy chairman of the sports committee of the Bundestag.
André Hahn, the sports policy spokesman for Die Linke, spoke out against sanctions in sport: “Instead of continuing to spiral the escalation, we need diplomacy and talks on many levels now more than ever.” Sport could “be an important bridge,” Hahn claimed.
Meanwhile, the International Swimming Federation Fina is holding on to competitions in Russia. A withdrawal of the short course world championships in Kazan is not planned, said a spokesman on nd request. »Fina is closely monitoring the situation in Russia and Ukraine. At the moment there are no plans to change the current competition schedule. The short course world championships are scheduled to take place in Kazan from December 17th to 22nd, and the 2021 junior world championships, which were postponed due to the pandemic, will also be held at the same location in August. And already in April the world series in synchronized swimming and diving will stop in Kazan.
Something similar was heard from the World Volleyball Association FIVB, which does not want to deprive Russia of the men’s World Cup (August 26 to September 11): “The FIVB is of the opinion that sport should always remain separate from politics,” the reasoning said. “But we are closely monitoring the situation to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants.”
Interestingly, it is the second time that the FIVB has decided in this way. At the end of 2018 he awarded the World Cup to Russia. A year later, the World Anti-Doping Agency Wada ruled in the Russian doping scandal that the country was not allowed to host a World Cup for four years. However, the FIVB waited another year until the Cas International Court of Arbitration for Sport halved the ban to then say that a postponement of the World Cup was no longer justifiable after the preparations had already been made.
Gazprom advertising in German stadiums
In Germany, meanwhile, football is under pressure: The second division football club FC Schalke 04, sponsored by the Russian energy company Gazprom, is following the situation in eastern Ukraine “with great concern,” the club said on Tuesday. The Russian state controls the fortunes of the company. An end to the sponsorship, which has long been criticized by its own fans, is apparently still not up for debate. Instead, Gazprom was praised as a “reliable partner” and “a relevant gas supplier to the Federal Republic of Germany.”
Since Gazprom also supports Uefa financially, its advertising banners could also be seen in German stadiums during the 2024 European Football Championship. The interim president of the German Football Association, Rainer Koch, did not want to deal with it on Tuesday: “It’s a very delicate situation,” he told ARD. »At the moment it is about securing world peace and therefore about much more important things than football.«