Thursday, April 2, 2015

US Senators Call for Russia to be Stripped of 2018 World Cup

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 18 US Senators sent a letter to  Sepp Blatter at FIFA (here in PDF) calling for it to strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup. Here is the full text of the letter:
Given Russia’s ongoing violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, we respectfully request that you convene an Extraordinary Congress of FIFA to consider stripping Russia of the privilege of hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Allowing Russia to host the FIFA World Cup inappropriately bolsters the prestige of the Putin regime at a time when it should be condemned and provides economic relief at a time when much of the international community is imposing economic sanctions.

As you know, nearly a full year has passed since unmarked Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists began their dismemberment of Ukraine. Since then, more than 40 countries, all FIFA members, have implemented sanctions on Russia in an effort to end the conflict. It is unacceptable that while nearly half of the 2014 World Cup participants have joined the international sanctions regime to counter Russian aggression, FIFA would not even consider allowing its members to vote on moving the 2018 competition to a country that respects the shared principles of FIFA and international law.

With the goal of ending the crisis in Ukraine and ensuring a successful 2018 World Cup, we strongly encourage FIFA to deny the Putin regime the privilege of hosting the 2018 World Cup and make preparations for an alternate host country.
With the 2016 US elections now in view, it would be timely for the US Senate to hold a hearing or two on FIFA and the 2018 World Cup.  Can you imagine a panel of witnesses including Sunil Gulati, the head of US Soccer and also a member of FIFA's Executive Committee, Sepp Blatter, and Jeffrey Webb, the head of CONCACAF? We the Senate to invite these men and be turned down, it could cause some problems for US and international soccer. It would be a delicate situation for certain.

It is not clear, of course, whether the 18 US Senators are engaged in a one-off stunt with the letter, or if there is a broader interest in pursuing this issue. If the latter, then FIFA might be facing a bit of opposition with more teeth than usual. Stay tuned.


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