Russia will not be allowed to play in Under-17 European Championship qualifying games this month after all, European soccer body UEFA said Tuesday after being unable to make its preferred new policy work.
Widespread opposition from member federations to playing Russia at any level of international games led to UEFA going back to its blanket ban on Russian teams, which it had controversially tried to change two weeks ago.
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UEFA had surprisingly eased its policy that all Russian national and club teams be excluded from international competitions, which has been in place since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
UEFA had cited the importance of not punishing children for the decisions of a national government in suggesting that Russian U17 teams could play in international competitions but without their national colors, flag or anthem.
The move provoked a split in UEFA’s executive committee — its vice presidents from England, Poland and Wales refused to back the proposal — and at least 12 of the 55 member federations said their teams would continue to refuse to play games against Russia.
For the last two weeks, UEFA staff explored inserting Russia into its men’s and women’s youth competitions despite having already drawn the qualifying groups. Each group was due to play all its games spread over several days in a single host country.
After another executive committee meeting on Tuesday, UEFA said “the agenda point was withdrawn as no technical solution to allow Russian teams to play could be found.”
The Ukrainian soccer federation said the decision showed that its appeal to other UEFA member federations to boycott games against Russia was heard.
“Russian football remains isolated, that is, where it belongs,” the Ukrainian soccer body said.
UEFA’s updated decision came after awarding its men’s Euro 2028 hosting rights to the United Kingdom and Ireland, whose members have opposed playing Russia, and the 2032 edition to Italy and Turkey, whose executive committee members had supported the pro-Russia move.
“We have made ourselves really clear on Russia,” English Football Association CEO Mark Bullingham told reporters at UEFA headquarters. “From our understanding nothing has changed.”
UEFA leaders, including its president Aleksander Ceferin, did not meet with reporters Tuesday.
UEFA’s most senior vice president, Karl-Erik Nilsson, attended the meeting days after the Russia issue cost him his job as head of the Sweden sports confederation, a government-backed national funding body.
Nilsson resigned last week under pressure at home for backing UEFA’s pro-Russia decision in direct contravention of Swedish national sports policy.
The former World Cup referee retains his €250,000 ($265,000) per year position as one of UEFA’s six vice presidents with a mandate that expires in 18 months’ time.
Russian soccer’s delegate on the UEFA executive committee, Alexander Dyukov, did not travel to Switzerland for the meeting.