US senators call for pressure on Fifa to strip Russia of World Cup 2018

Published July 31st, 2014 - 06:44 GMT

US senators have called on nations to put pressure on Fifa to consider moving the 2018 World Cup finals away from Russia.

Relations between the U.S. and Russia have cooled considerably in 2014, with Russian support for separatists in east Ukraine causing a rift to widen, and the disaster involving Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has only served to increase misgivings about allowing the country to host football's greatest tournament.

UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg claimed earlier this month that it would be "unthinkable" to allow Russia to host the finals in 2018 unless there is a change in their conduct in Ukraine, and in March, two Republican senators from America sent a letter to Sepp Blatter requesting the World Cup to be moved.

Now, two further American politicians - including former presidential candidate John McCain - have urged Fifa to consider withdrawing Russia's privilege to host the tournament.

"I think it absolutely should be reconsidered, but I would hasten to add that a unilateral decision by the United States would not bode well," John McCain told ABC/ESPN's Capitol Games podcast.

"I'm old enough to remember that after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan the United States withdrew from the Olympics, as you might recall, and it was not popular over time. So if we can get the international community to do that, I'm absolutely totally behind it."

The senior senator from Arizona, who was the Republican party's nominee for president in 2008, said it would take more than simply an American effort for Fifa to begin to consider a host change.

"I'd like to see the United States and others — say, the British perhaps and other countries — raise the issue in ordinary meetings, periodic meetings that they have. Say: 'We need to discuss this issue. Is it appropriate to have this venue in Russia at this particular time, and aren't there other countries that would be far less controversial?'"

"If in the face of a downed airliner, in the face of crippling sanctions from the European Union, Putin thumbs his nose at the international community and continues to send in arms and personnel into eastern Ukraine, then I'm not sure how you reward this guy and his government with a major, international competition," added Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, before urging for pressure to mount on Russia.

"You have to do it by the end of the year. You can't take the chance that this guy is going to calm down and start behaving — because what if another Ukraine crisis erupts in the winter of 2017-2018?"

Football's governing body has rejected calls to move the tournament as recently as July 25.

"History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems," Fifa said in a statement.

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