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Foreign affairs

Should FIFA strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup?

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As the fallout from Russia's absorption of Crimea continues, some are suggesting that the international community should go beyond economic sanctions to target a particular point of pride for Vladimir Putin's regime: Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup. From The Guardian:

Speaking on BBC Question Time, [shadow health secretary Andy Burnham] said it was FIFA's decision to make but it should "revisit" that choice.

Clive Efford, Labour's shadow sports minister, later said that no country should "unilaterally boycott" the 2018 World Cup in Russia but "FIFA should discuss contingency plans today in case the situation escalates." [The Guardian]

These days, the standard line is that mixing global politics and sports is ineffective, hurting the athletes and the fans more than anyone else. That was the response to calls that the U.S. and other nations boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics over Russia's anti-gay laws, for example. But since Russia's invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, the Sochi Games — originally symbolic of a gentler, kinder Russia — have come to be seen as an enormous publicity stunt to hide Putin's more sinister agenda. The 2018 World Cup is a long ways away, but FIFA President Sepp Blatter will be under some pressure to consider whether he wants the prestige of the World Cup to be used in a similar fashion.