Russia considering UEFA exit, moving to AFC

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Russian clubs and national teams have been suspended from competitive football since Feburary. FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

The Russian Football Union (RFU) will hold an executive committee meeting on Friday to discuss resigning from UEFA — European football’s governing body — in order to move to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), sources have told ESPN.

All Russian clubs and national teams were suspended from competitive football by FIFA and UEFA in February following the invasion of Ukraine and, with the conflict ongoing, the suspension remains in place.

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But despite the global ban on its teams competing on both the club and international stage, sources have said the RFU believes that a move to Asia would enable Russian teams to return to action in a more welcoming environment if, or when, FIFA ends its ban on Russia participating in the sport at a competitive level.

“In the current geopolitical realities, the presence of the RFU in UEFA contradicts the national interests of Russia,” Roman Teryushkov, the deputy of the State Duma, told Sports.Ru. “It is impossible to build sports friendship with countries unfriendly to us and with constant poking from the collective West.”

A meeting was held in Moscow on Dec. 23 to discuss the possibility of a transition to Asia and sources have said a final decision could be made by the executive committee on Friday. Almost 75% of Russia’s land mass is in Asia.

Sources have said UEFA is monitoring the situation and is waiting for Russia to clarify its position. Russia is one of 55 full member associations of UEFA and was due to host the 2022 Champions League final in Saint Petersburg until the game was switched to Paris as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

No nations have previously resigned from UEFA, but there is a precedent for the AFC in terms of accepting countries from outside the confederation.

Australia now participate as an Asian nation after joining in 2006 following their resignation from the Oceania Football Confederation.