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How FIFA can help save Ukraine, and Russia

FIFA could attempt to leverage the World Cup as way to save Ukraine, reform Russia's policies, and overhaul its own image.

Source: AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov
Source: AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

Last week Malaysian Flight 17, carrying 295 people, was shot down over Ukraine. There has been an escalation in the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, with three other planes shot down last week. Russia has denied any support for the rebels. This tragedy came days after Russia announced it will spend about $20 billion on the 2018 World Cup, making it the most expensive price-per seat in World Cup history at $11,500 compared to $6,500 for Brazil, $5,000 for South Africa, and $3,200 for Germany. Cost for stadiums already have spiraled out of control with the St. Petersburg stadium’s price tag increasing to $1.2 billion from the projected $415 million. The good news for Russia is it will not have the record for World Cup spending for long because, as Bloomberg reports, Qatar plans to spend $200 billion.

(Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)
(Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)

As the Guardian noted, it was a watershed moment when FIFA President Sepp Blatter turned away from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to engage in a long conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

FIFA made $4.5 billion off this World Cup while receiving $250 million in tax breaks. Now FIFA must do business with Russia, a country that recently passed anti-gay legislation and witnessed $30 billion disappear surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics. This is on top of allowing a Crimean secession that has resulted in the death of 356 people, including 257 civilians, as well as the aforementioned Malaysian Air tragedy. FIFA could pressure Russia to take meaningful steps in creating peace in Ukraine as well as reform its human rights and corruption policies. If Russia does not comply, FIFA could move the 2018 World Cup. When U.S. senators Dan Coats and Mark Kirk wrote to FIFA, asking it to strip Russia of hosting the World Cup, FIFA replied that a country could only lose the World Cup if it violated its statutes. The Third Pillar of the FIFA statutes states:

“Football is much more than just a game. Its universal appeal means it has a unique power and reach which must be managed carefully. We believe that we have a duty to society that goes beyond football: to improve the lives of young people and their surrounding communities, to reduce the negative impact of our activities and to make the most we can of the positives.

 

Football can inspire communities and break down barriers. Football is for all. FIFA believes that everybody has the right to play football free from discrimination or prejudice and we are striving to ensure that this is the case.

 

We recognize, and work hard to limit, our impact on the environment, inspiring greater awareness and best practice in sustainability standards at all of our events.

 

This is the third crucial pillar of FIFA’s mission: building a better future for all through football.”

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