Soccer-Russia World Cup chief ‘serious’ about Euro hosting bid

Chief executive of the 2018 soccer World Cup Local Organising Committee Sorokin attends a news conference in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Chief executive of the 2018 soccer World Cup Local Organising Committee Alexei Sorokin attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia July 14, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

March 31, 2022

By Simon Evans

DOHA (Reuters) – Russian soccer authorities are serious about a bid to host the European Championship in 2028 or 2032 despite their teams currently being suspended from competition, a senior official said on Thursday.

Alexey Sorokin, who was CEO of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a former member of FIFA’s ruling council, said that his country had everything in place to host a tournament.

Russian clubs and national teams have been suspended from FIFA and UEFA competition due to the war in Ukraine, which denied Russia the chance to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals through the European playoffs.

The Russian Football Union has appealed the suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

But Sorokin said that state of affairs does not mean Russia cannot bid to hold future tournaments.

“I’m serious that Russia will be able to organise world class events and is technically able to do that right now,” he told reporters on the margins of FIFA’s annual congress in Qatar on Thursday.

“We have all it takes, we have experience we have sports infrastructure, we have our passion for sports, in particular football. That’s what I believe we have a lot of football supporters in our country,” he said.

European soccer’s governing body UEFA has opened the bidding process for both Euro 2028 and 2032 and Russia has yet to state which edition it will focus its bid upon.

The United Kingdom nations and Ireland have made a declaration of interest to host the 2028 competition along with Turkey and Russia.

Italy, along with Turkey and Russia, have said they intend to bid for 2032.

Sorokin told reporters that it was “a long time until 2032,” indicating a bid was more likely for that tournament, but said that there was still time to select which year to focus on.

“The countries have submitted the (bids) and then we will have more clarity on who is focusing more in which year. The process will bring more clarity on the way, that’s what I believe,” he said.

Ukraine football officials were not able to attend the FIFA congress but delegates were shown an emotional video message from Ukraine FA president Andriy Pavelko, who was filmed wearing a bullet-proof jacket.

“I have known him for a very long time, we regret that he has these emotions,” said Sorokin.

“But it’s difficult I understand that. It must be difficult for them, but again I’m here not to discuss politics or military activities or anything, I’m here for the FIFA Congress,” he added.

Ukraine was represented by their ambassador to Qatar, Andrii Kuzmenko, who repeated a call for Russia’s soccer authorities to be removed from FIFA.

But Sorokin said that football bodies should not be held responsible and expressed disappointment that the hosting of this year’s Champions League final had been taken away from St Petersburg.

“What does Russian football have to do with all of this, what has Russia done wrong? I don’t find any clause in the FIFA statutes that were broken by the Russian football. What’s happening is received with disappointment by Russian fans, that a European event has been taken away,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Iain Axon; Editing by Toby Davis)