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Russia Is Being Hit With Sporting Sanctions, But Do They Actually Work?

Russia is being hit with sanctions from numerous sporting codes, and will most likely be chucked out of the football World Cup.

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As Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to rage on, the country is being hit with sanctions from every direction. But in addition to economic sanctions — as countries like Australia, the UK and the US have imposed against Russia, the nation is also being hit with another blow: sporting sanctions.

While economic sanctions — as the name suggests — put a strain on the economy through import and export duties, or by simply refusing to trade with particular countries, sporting sanctions are more of a psychological tactic.

Sporting Sanctions Introduced Against Russia So Far

In a joint announcement on Monday, FIFA and UEFA (the governing body in European football) have suspended Russia’s national football teams from all matches until further notice, doubling down on their earlier sanctions against the country.

“FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice,” UEFA said in a statement. “These decisions were adopted today by the Bureau of the FIFA Council and the Executive Committee of UEFA, respectively the highest decision-making bodies of both institutions on such urgent matters.”

The decision means that Russia — the host of the last World Cup — will likely be excluded from this year’s event, which will be held in Qatar. FIFA’s decision to exclude Russia from the event comes after an earlier statement noting that Russia would only be able to play under the banner of the “Football Union of Russia” was criticised. It’s also worth noting that FIFA has a long history of looking the other way when Putin has committed atrocities.

Additionally, the International Olympic Committee has publicly called for sports federations to exclude both Russia and Belarus from all international events following the invasion of Ukraine.

“In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB (executive board) recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions,” the IOC said in a statement on Monday.

Do Sporting Sanctions Work?

Sporting sanctions are far from a new concept, so do they actually work? And — more importantly — will they work in Russia? While our own Prime Minister thinks politics and sport should be separate, sporting sanctions have been known to make a difference in the world.

FIFA — in particular — has previously banned Germany and Japan from the World Cup following WWII, and has also banned South Africa and Yugoslavia during the apartheid era and Balkans war, respectively.

Perhaps the most noteworthy example of sanctions in sport is the anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa.

Prior to apartheid, South Africa had a prominent role in international sport, participating in a number of different sports and producing athletes. However, boycotts and sanctions eventually saw South Africa excluded from almost all international sporting events.

The ban on international rugby — a sport that was hugely popular among white people in South Africa– was particularly effective. Similar boycotts of the South African cricket team — which was excluded from international tournaments until Nelson Mandela was freed — were also effective.

This meant that — years later — when President Frederik Willem de Klerk was eventually ready to release Nelson Mandela from prison and negotiate the end of the apartheid era, the idea of South Africans returning to the international sporting community became a huge selling point.

Obviously, this doesn’t necessarily mean that similar sanctions for Russia will prove effective. But considering Russia has now been hit with boycotts from some of its most loved sports — like football, tennis, motorsports and athletics — the sanctions will undoubtedly impact the morale of the country in some capacity.