The sports world reacts quickly to punish Russia after its invasion of Ukraine

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Wembley Stadium had a message of support for Ukraine.Images: getty

The consequences following Russia The full-scale invasion of Ukraine was swift and significant in the world of international sport. The military action has led to the shutdown of sports business in Russia, the exclusion of national athletes from international competitions and will even lead to the sale of one of the most valuable teams in the world.

Russia began the military action on February 24, just four days after the end of the Beijing Olympics – reports said Western intelligence revealed China had asked Russia to delay an invasion until the end of the Beijing Olympics. end of the Games – and the next day the executive board of the International Olympic Committee called on international federations to cancel or move events planned in Russia or Belarus, which have joined the invasion of Ukraine. Three days later, a subsequent IOC recommendation called on federations “not to invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions”.

The pair of missives allowed international sports bodies to take formal action. On February 28, FIFA and UEFA jointly announced that all Russian football teams, including national and club teams, are indefinitely suspended from participating in their competitions. Russian athletes have also been barred from international competitions organized by major athletics, basketball, figure skating and skiing federations, among others.

Formula 1, which had already canceled its scheduled race in Russia in September after the invasion, has terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix promoter. In a statement, F1 said in particular that “Russia will not have a race in the future”.

The International Paralympic Committee was not as restrictive at first and thus earned the wrath of the world. Last Wednesday, the organization announced that athletes from Russia and Belarus would be allowed to compete in the Paralympic Games in Beijing, which started last Friday, but must do so individually under the Paralympic flag. At a future IPC General Assembly, members would decide whether to suspend or terminate membership of the Russia and Belarus Paralympic Committees.

In a letter to Team USA athletes, US Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland expressed her displeasure with the decision: “While we can understand the difficulty of this decision and the desire of the IPC to protect the rights of athletes to compete, we are disappointed with this result as it excuses Russia’s contempt not only for the Olympic truce, but also for the victims of a senseless war. USA Hockey then echoed its disappointment .

Wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki, a three-time Paralympic medalist and vice-chairman of the USOPC Athlete Advisory Council, said Team USA athletes were also frustrated, especially given repeated violations of the Olympic truce and anti-doping regulations by Russia.

“We try not to let athletes get caught up in the global machinations of what’s going on in the world, but there comes a time when [leadership organizations] we have to stand up and say enough is enough, we can’t let these things continue to happen. said Aoki, who is completing a doctorate. in international relations and comparative politics at the University of Denver. “The idea of ​​athletes not being able to compete is a big step to take, and in this situation we felt this call was warranted.”

Announcing the decision, IPC President Andrew Parsons said the sanctions represented the “severest possible punishment” currently allowed by the organisation’s statutes. Yet, after the immediate worldwide pushback, less than a day later the IPC announced that it would instead ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing. Parsons said 83 Paralympians were affected by the ruling.

The ongoing military conflict has also forced responses from other global sports organizations with ties to Russia. Perhaps most notably, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is selling Chelsea FC after it came under scrutiny from British lawmakers, who began sanctioning wealthy people linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a statement, Abramovich said the sale of the team “will not be expedited”, that he will not seek repayment of any loans from the club and that the proceeds of the sale will be donated to a foundation “for the benefit of all the victims of the war in Ukraine.

Another Premier League club, Everton FC, has severed sponsorships with USM Holdings and other Russian companies controlled by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who has links to both Putin and the club’s main owner, Farhad Moshiri . Usmanov, whose assets have been frozen by the European Union, said the charges against him were “false and defamatory”. He also suspended his duties as president of the International Fencing Federation.

In the United States, some of the top leagues moved quickly to sever ties with the nation. An NBA spokesperson told the Sports Business Journal that the league has “suspended our business activities in Russia.” A source said the business includes activities related to content distribution, including digital and broadcast. There is no timetable for the resumption of these activities.

The NHL, which has more than three dozen Russian-born players, also announced it would suspend partnerships with Russian companies and shut down its Russian-language social and digital channels. According to a source familiar with NHL thinking, the hiatus affects all league activity in Russia, including Russian gaming company Liga Stavok, which is a corporate sponsor, as well as broadcaster Yandex, live streaming on NHL.tv and e-commerce. , among other areas.

The break is indefinite, the source said. The NHL’s Russian-language Twitter account is currently inactive, the Russian YouTube channel is no longer accessible, and NHL.com/ru is inactive. Additionally, the Instagram NHL and NHL Europe accounts and the Facebook NHL account are all blocked in the country. The league also said it “stops considering Russia as a location for any future competition involving the NHL.”

Hockey equipment maker CCM is one of the brands that has removed Russian players from its marketing campaigns. CCM, which has deals with Russian-born stars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, declined to provide a specific timeline on when advertising with Russian hockey players might resume.

Despite the significant fallout, it is also believed that the conflict can provide momentum for the implementation of meaningful reforms.

“What’s really interesting is that we saw a pretty unified voice of advice from athletes around the world, including us, the UK, Germany and Australia, all on the same length of d ‘wave,” Aoki said. “I hope we will come together after the Paralympic Games are over and say, ‘How are we going to do this and what can we do to influence change on a larger scale?'”

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