UEFA abandons plan to enter Russia into U17 Euro qualifiers

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Russia will not be able to play in Under-17 European Championship qualifiers this month, European soccer body UEFA said on Tuesday after its preferred new policy was unable to work.

UEFA reverted to its blanket ban on Russian teams, which it controversially tried to change two weeks ago, amid widespread opposition from member federations to playing Russia at any level of international play.

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UEFA has surprisingly relaxed its policy to exclude all Russian national and club teams from international competition, which has been in place since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

UEFA noted the importance of not punishing children for a national government’s decision to allow Russian U17 teams to play in international competitions but without their national colours, flag or anthem.

The move sparked a split in UEFA’s executive committee — the vice presidents of England, Poland and Wales refused to support the proposal — and at least 12 of the 55 member federations said their teams would refuse to play against Russia.

For the past two weeks, UEFA officials have probed Russia’s inclusion in its men’s and women’s youth competitions despite having already drawn the qualifying groups. Each group will play all their games over several days in a single host nation.

After another executive committee meeting on Tuesday, UEFA said “the agenda item was withdrawn as no technical solution was found to allow the Russian teams to play.”

The Ukrainian Soccer Federation said the decision showed its pleas to other UEFA member federations to boycott games against Russia had been heard.

“Russian football remains isolated, that is where it is,” the Ukrainian Football Association said.

UEFA’s updated decision comes after it awarded its men’s Euro 2028 hosting rights to the United Kingdom and Ireland, whose members opposed playing in Russia, and the 2032 edition to Italy and Turkey, whose executive committee members backed the pro-Russian move.

“We’ve made ourselves really clear about Russia,” English Football Association CEO Mark Bullingham told reporters at UEFA headquarters. “From our understanding nothing has changed.”

UEFA leaders, including president Aleksandar Ceferin, did not meet with reporters on 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 Sweden’s sports confederation, a government-backed national funding body.

Nilsson resigned last week under pressure at home to support UEFA’s pro-Russian decision in direct violation of Swedish national sports policy.

The former World Cup referee has retained his €250,000 ($265,000) per year post as one of six UEFA vice presidents whose terms expire in 18 months.

Alexander Dyukov, the representative of Russian football on the UEFA Executive Committee, did not travel to Switzerland for the meeting.

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