FIFA: No World Cup ban yet for Russia, but team can't use flag, anthem

UEFA set to move Champions League final from Russia (1:05)

Mark Ogden reports that UEFA are set to strip Saint Petersburg of hosting rights for the 2022 Champions League final. (1:05)

FIFA backed away from immediately expelling Russia from World Cup qualifying on Sunday but said it remained an option, deciding instead the squad can play using the "RFU" acronym of its football federation, the Russian Football Union.

The unanimous ruling by the Bureau of the FIFA Council, which includes the six regional football confederation presidents, was also that the Russian flag and anthem can't be associated with the team.

"FIFA will continue its ongoing dialogue with the IOC, UEFA and other sport organizations to determine any additional measures or sanctions," FIFA said in a statement, "including a potential exclusion from competitions, that shall be applied in the near future should the situation not be improving rapidly.''

The decision adopts the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, punishing Russia's cover-up of the investigation into state-sponsored doping. Under that ruling, the Russians had to compete at the past two Olympics as the Russian Olympic Committee team. FIFA had stalled implementing the ban on Russia competing under its name until a potential qualification for the World Cup.

FIFA also said the RFU team can only play on neutral territory and without spectators.

The president of the Polish football association, Cezary Kulesza, reacted angrily to FIFA's decision, reiterating the association's decision to refuse to play Russia in their World Cup qualification playoff semifinal, which is scheduled for March 24.

"Today's FIFA decision is unacceptable to us," Kulesza said. "In the situation of the war in Ukraine, we are not interested in the game of appearances.

"Our position remains the same: the Polish national team WILL NOT PLAY against Russia in the playoff match, regardless of the name of the Russian team."

The winner of the playoff is due to host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 to decide who advances to the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 World Cup finals in Qatar. However, both nations had said prior to FIFA's decision they would refuse to play Russia.

The Polish FA wrote to FIFA later on Sunday to formally reject the governing body's decision.

"The Polish Football Association inform that as a result of the brutal aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and the war that continues there, we do not see any possibility of competing with the Russian national team in play-off matches for promotion to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 regardless of the name of the team consisting of Russian footballers and the place of the match," it said.

Separately, the English Football Association announced that its national teams would refuse to play Russia for the "foreseeable future.'' Russia has qualified for the Women's European Championship, which is being hosted by England in June.

The English FA said the decision was taken "out of solidarity with Ukraine and to wholeheartedly condemn the atrocities being committed by the Russian leadership."

The RFU's president is Aleksandr Dyukov, who is chief executive of a subsidiary of state-owned energy giant Gazprom and also sits on the UEFA executive committee.

On Sunday, France football federation president Noel Le Graet told the Le Parisien newspaper that he was leaning toward excluding Russia from the World Cup.

"The world of sport, and in particular football, cannot remain neutral,'' said Le Graet, who sits on the ruling FIFA Council and has recently been a close ally of the governing body's president, Gianni Infantino.

A strict reading of FIFA's World Cup regulations would make the Polish, Swedish and Czech federations liable to disciplinary action and required to pay fines and compensation if they do not play Russia.

In 1992, however, FIFA and UEFA removed Yugoslavia from its competitions following United Nations sanctions imposed when war broke out in the Balkans.

The FIFA Bureau, which is chaired by Infantino, includes UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

UEFA on Friday pulled the 2022 Champions League final from Saint Petersburg, moving it to Paris, and said Russian and Ukrainian teams in its competitions must play home games in neutral countries. UEFA allowed Spartak Moscow to continue playing in the second-tier Europa League's round of 16.