World Cup should not be held in Russia, says UK deputy prime minister

Nick Clegg believes Fifa should strip the country of its right to host the 2018 tournament due to the escalating conflict in Ukraine
UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg says Russia should lose the right to host the 2018 World Cup due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Fifa has already stated that the tournament in Russia can be "a force for good", rejecting calls from Germany and other leading nations to have the finals moved from the country.

The European Union has already extended sanctions against Russia over the escalating levels of conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine following the disaster of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed on July 17 after allegedly being shot down by pro-Russia rebel forces.

Clegg, however, feels these sanctions should include stripping the country of the right to host football's showpiece event in four years' time, claiming it is "unthinkable" to allow the finals to go ahead in Russia unless president Vladimir Putin listens to calls to withdraw from the conflict.

"Vladimir Putin himself has to understand that he can't have his cake and eat it," the Liberal Democrat leader told The Sunday Times.

"He can't constantly... push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point, destabilise a neighbouring country, protect these armed separatists in the east of Ukraine and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.

"You can't have this - the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border."

England lost out in the bidding process to host the World Cup but Clegg was eager to stress his comments were not indicative of a "British land grab to snatch the World Cup from under Vladimir Putin's nose".

"If there's one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it's his sense of status," he added.

"Maybe reminding him that you can't retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking."

Fifa has already released a statement to stress its conviction that the World Cup in Russia can help "achieve positive change in the world".

"As a world governing body of football Fifa takes its responsibility in governing football seriously and we support any peaceful and democratic debate. Fifa deplores any form of violence and will continue to use its tournaments to promote dialogue, understanding and peace among peoples," the statement on Friday read.

"History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems.

"Fifa is convinced that, through football, particularly the World Cup and its international spotlight, we can achieve positive change in the world, but football cannot be seen as a solution for all issues, particularly those related to world politics. We have seen that the World Cup can be a force for good and Fifa believes this will be the case for the 2018 World Cup in Russia."