How Russia’s Invasion on Ukraine has Impacted the Sporting World

Since February 24th, the coverage on the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been nonstop. The different political, economic, and cultural impact have been broadcasted worldwide. While being significantly less important than the direct effects of the invasion, there have been many different impacts in the sporting world. 

In one of the first decisions that was made in response to the invasion, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) made the decision to move the final round of the UEFA Champions League (a tournament including the top club soccer teams throughout Europe) away from its initial location of Saint Petersburg, Russia. The venue for the final was changed to the Stade de Paris in Paris, France. 

In the following days, Russian athletes and teams continued to see the impacts of their nation’s decision to invade Ukraine. In Formula 1 racing, the drivers from both Russia and Belarus will now have to race under the flag of the Fédéracion Internationale de l’Automobile (International Automobile Association), as their countries are no longer allowed to be represented in the races. Additionally, the Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled in Russia in late September has been canceled. In both the Paralympics and World Athletic Series events (track and field), athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to compete. Both the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and UEFA have banned Russian national soccer teams and club soccer teams from competing in any events. This will have lasting impacts on the sport as the Russian Men’s National Team was scheduled to play their qualification match for the 2022 World Cup in the coming weeks and will likely not be able to go because of this. In addition, teams in the UEFA Champions League as well as other competitions from UEFA were automatically eliminated, and the teams that played them were granted free wins. 

While there have been many different punishments against Russian athletes and teams as a result of the invasion, there have been many different displays of solidarity across the sporting world. After a victory in a semi-final tennis match at the Dubai Tennis Championships, Andrey Rublev, a Russian tennis player wrote “no war please” on the camera lens in a supportive gesture to Ukraine. In a particularly symbolic match, Elina Svitolina, a Ukrainian women’s tennis player was victorious over Russian opposition. Svitolina was originally not planning to play in the game, but wanted to show strength for her country. Her victory was won while dressed in a yellow shirt and blue skirt, the colors of Ukraine’s national flag. Throughout European soccer matches since the invasion began, many different fan bases and teams have shown support for Ukraine with banners, armbands, and honoring the Ukrainian players in foreign leagues. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected all facets of life in Ukraine and greatly affects the rest of the world. The human and cultural impacts are of far more importance than the athletics ones, but the impacts of this conflict go far beyond what is seen on the headlines.