UEFA could thwart Russia’s bid to host soccer’s Euros

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LONDON (AP) — UEFA is exploring fresh sanctions to thwart Russia’s attempt to host soccer’s European Championship after the country launched a surprising bid on Wednesday, one month after invading its neighbor and seeing its teams suspended from international competitions over the war in Ukraine.

A meeting of the Russian Football Union executive committee decided to submit an initial bid to UEFA for the 2028 and 2032 tournaments ahead of the deadline for expressions of interest.

The late declaration of interest by Russia is a challenge to the joint U.K.-Ireland entry, which expected to be unchallenged to host the UEFA showpiece in 2028 until Turkey also entered the contest on Wednesday. Italy is the only declared bidder for Euro 2032 apart from Russia.

Russia’s federation was not suspended by UEFA despite the ban on its teams from playing, although its bid for the Euros seemed doomed to fail.

UEFA said its executive committee can “reassess the legal and factual situation as it evolves and adopt further decisions as necessary, including in light of the declaration of interest expressed by the Football Union of Russia for hosting the UEFA EURO.”

The RFU president, Alexander Dyukov, also still sits on the UEFA executive committee and is CEO of an oil subsidiary of state-owned Gazprom, which was dropped as a Champions League sponsor over the war.

“We must take the opportunity to host the Euro,” Dyukov told Russia’s Match TV. “It will be at the World Cup stadiums and we have developed infrastructure.”

Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup and the venue for the final — Luzhniki Stadium — was used last week for a rally supporting President Vladimir Putin.

“We are sending the declaration today,” Dyukov said. “We assume that Russia is already prepared to to host large-scale competitions. We have the experience.”

Russia’s unlikely plan is sure to face fierce opposition. Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic had independently announced they would refuse to play Russia in World Cup qualifying even on neutral territory — ahead of FIFA’s decision to suspend Russia.

UEFA will provide the tournament requirements to bidders next Wednesday and then confirm their candidacies on April 5. The deadline to submit final bid dossiers is not until April 2023 with a decision by the UEFA executive committee in September 2023.

“We reserve the right to enter a bid,” Dyukov said. “This option doesn’t cost anything. And you can’t refuse it, if it isn’t expensive.”

The British Isles bid is being led by England and also features Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.