UEFA: Ad hoc rule-making leading to dangerous double standards

Divergent responses to serious violations of international law by Russia and Israel underscore need for clear and objective rules and processes.

FairSquare has written to UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin requesting an immediate clarification on  the rules and policies guiding UEFA’s suspension of teams from its competitions.

UEFA has excluded most Russian teams from its competitions since February 2022, but at the UEFA congress in February 2024, its Secretary General Theodore Theodoridis refused to countenance similar action against Israeli teams saying that Russia and Israel were “two completely different situations”, suggesting that the Hamas attacks of 7 October excused Israel from all accountability for its actions in Gaza. 

Comments from Aleksander Čeferin and Theodore Theodoridis also appear to flatly contradict the arguments that UEFA made at the Court of Arbitration in Sport, where it claimed that its response to Russia’s aggression were not disciplinary in nature, and raise further questions both about the different standards being applied to Russia and Israel. FairSquare’s letter requests clarification on the rules and policies that have guided UEFA’s response to both situations:

The current situation appears to reflect a clear and obvious double standard, and one which appears to stem from arbitrary and ad hoc rule-making. In that regard, we would appreciate your prompt clarification of the following points:

  • Has UEFA drawn up any rules or solicited any expert legal advice to guide its conduct in response to gross violations of international law by states with UEFA member associations?
  • Does UEFA have an official position or policy on whether and when violations of international law should result in the suspension of a country’s national and club teams from UEFA competition? If not, does it plan to develop such a policy?
  • Is it UEFA’s official position that because Israel’s actions in Gaza are a response to the Hamas attacks of 7 October, UEFA will not sanction Israel regardless of how unlawful or how disproportionate its reprisals in Gaza? 

“UEFA acted swiftly and decisively in the case of Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine, but appears to have no qualms about credible and ongoing allegations of genocide as a result of Israel’s demonstrably illegal and disproportionate actions in Gaza”, said FairSquare co-director Nicholas McGeehan.

“As one of the world’s most influential sporting bodies, it is critical that UEFA bases its decisions in such moments on consistent, objective criteria and applies these to all its member associations.”

FairSquare is a non-profit organisation, one of whose aims is to ensure better, more democratic governance to prevent sporting institutions and competitions contributing to harm and suffering.