Boris Johnson: ‘Inconceivable’ that sporting relations can continue with Russia

The Prime Minister, speaking at RAF Brize Norton on Saturday evening, described the situation as ‘sad’.

26 February 2022

Boris Johnson said it is “inconceivable” that sporting relations can continue with Russia under Vladimir Putin, as football teams across the country stood in solidarity with Ukraine.

The Prime Minister’s comments come after Poland and Sweden’s refusal to play the Russian national football team in the World Cup play-offs following the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Johnson, speaking at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Saturday evening, said the situation is “sad”.

He said: “I mean, it’s a sad thing because I don’t think we’ve had a situation like this for a very, very long time.

“But it’s inconceivable to me to imagine that normal sporting relations with Putin’s Russia can continue.”

It came amid an outpouring of anti-war sentiment across the Premier League, with Manchester City’s Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Zinchenko and fellow countryman Vitalii Mykolenko, of Everton, in tears on their respective benches at Goodison Park.

Everton v Manchester City – Premier League – Goodison Park
Zinchenko was in tears (Peter Byrne/PA)

The home side emerged from the tunnel draped in Ukraine flags, with City’s players wearing T-shirts also bearing the flag and the words “No War”, as the song He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother was played in the stadium.

Just prior to kick-off in the Manchester United game against Watford, the teams gathered together to hold up a sign displaying the word “Peace”, while Aston Villa defender Matty Cash took off his shirt to reveal a “stay strong” message to Dynamo Kiev defender Tomasz Kedziora after scoring.

Meanwhile, Roman Abramovich has handed the “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the club’s foundation trustees.

Everton v Manchester City – Premier League – Goodison Park
Players took to the field bearing ‘No war’ messages (Peter Byrne/PA)

Elsewhere, the Champions League football final in May was moved from Russia’s second-largest city, St Petersburg, to Paris, while motorsport’s world governing body the FIA announced September’s Formula One Russian Grand Prix had been cancelled.

The decisions were welcomed by the British Government, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries saying: “Our message is clear: Russia must not be able to legitimise their heinous and barbaric attack on Ukraine by hosting international sporting and cultural events.”

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