The Destiny of Foreign Players in Russia and Ukraine
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has taken the whole world by surprise. Yet, the ones shocked the most were probably the foreigners living in said countries for work or other reasons. These people, in most cases, tried their best to leave even though it meant suffering financial losses. One subgroup, however, was not able to leave so fast due to having contracts that forced them to stay and work no matter what. Athletes and sportspeople playing for various Russian and Ukrainian teams are among the affected outsiders.
This concerns the whole sport industry. However, it is not so easy for players to move from their current teams due to regulations in place and the consequences that follow a breach of contract. Fortunately, many international sports organizations quickly started making decisions that would allow these athletes to leave the countries for safety.
The first response was from the Polish FA, who asked FIFA to reopen the transfer windows for players in both countries so they could escape. Following that; FIFPro, the largest players union in football, contacted FIFA and asked for foreign players in Russia to be able to leave permanently.
FIFA and the European Club Association held a meeting that lasted almost four days until a decision was made alongside UEFA: to temporarily suspend the contracts of foreign players and coaches at Ukrainian clubs until the end of June. For the Russian side, the following statement was made:
“In order to facilitate the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia, in the event that clubs affiliated to the Football Union of Russia (FUR) do not reach a mutual agreement with their respective foreign players and coaches before or on 10 March 2022, foreign players and coaches will have the right to unilaterally suspend their employment contracts with the FUR-affiliated clubs in question until the end of the season in Russia (30 June 2022),”
In short, players will be able to sign with other teams even if the registry period of the league they will be joining is closed at the time. Although for the exception to be applicable, they need to register with new clubs before April 7, 2022. Any players who haven’t done so will only be able to sign with teams whose registry periods are open. Another restriction is also placed on the clubs. Each one will only be able to register a maximum of two players who have benefited from the exception.
With another statement made regarding underage football players currently in Ukraine, FIFA also allowed international transfers of minors, something that’s normally not permitted.
The decision of both The European Handball and European Basketball federations to exclude Russian and Belarusian clubs from their mayor competitions has represented a fleeing opportunity for many players that want to leave those countries. And while it is expected for such federations to follow the example of FIFA and UEFA, international athletes and coaches continue to abandon their posts regardless of the consequences it could have on their careers.
Are these measures enough?
FIFPro claimed the decision was merely a temporary solution and would not provide much help in the long run. They fear for the international players that currently have no offers, as they could be left essentially unemployed for an unknown period of time. That is why the Polish Football Association continues to urge FIFA to re-open the transfer window for players in Ukraine and Russia as a better solution.
All in all, the sanctions by FIFA regarding the situation seemed to appease most people in the industry and somewhat stabilized the situation on the football side. Considering its importance in the European scene, federations from other sports are most likely to follow their footsteps. And even if we don’t know how the transfers will affect the teams and leagues all around the world, it’s certain that an influx of talented sportspeople from both Russia and Ukraine will change the competitions landscape in many places. Meanwhile, make sure to stay tuned to our news section to keep informed of the situation of the war and its effects on sports.