Russia was kicked out of the World Cup on Monday as world and European football governing bodies finally bowed to intense political pressure from the EU, Poland, and post-Brexit Scotland.
FIFA and UEFA confirmed the U-turn late on Monday afternoon after fierce back-channel lobbying pressured the sport's governing bodies to deny Russia the chance to face Poland in a qualifier round for the competition in Qatar later this year. Poland had fervently boycotted its planned face-off with Russia whilst Scotland proposed "forfeiting" its play-off against a Ukraine team unable to train or prepare.
With the European Commission adding their voice to the diplomatic demands for FIFA to exclude Russia from the competition, the organisation finally capitulated with a ban on Russian participation, "until fiurther notice".
The game's governing body initially tried to avoid this decision, saying that Russia could compete but without its national flag – echoing the compromise reached by the International Olympic Committee at the recent Winter Games in Beijing.
'No leeway, no alternatives'
However, early on Monday, politicians told The Brussels Times that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was ready to call for Scotland to forfeit its match with Ukraine in a show of "solidarity".
That led to politicised calls for Russia's qualifying position to be handed to Ukraine in line with wider economic sanctions and defence moves to shore up Ukrainian military and EU frontline defences.
- International sports events in Russia moved elsewhere
- Russian-Ukrainian peace talks end, further explosions near Kyiv
Scottish National Party deputy Michelle Thomson drove early pressure from Edinburgh for a "‘noble gesture" of refusing to take to the field on 24 March "in support of the sovereign state of Ukraine, and showing the players and country the respect it deserves."
"Russia should be thrown out of the World Cup right now. No leeway, no alternatives," former Scots First Minister and one-time professional footballer Henry McLeish added.
"The best thing to do is to allow Ukraine to take Russia's place, full stop," he said. "I am making this humble appeal to the First Minister and to FIFA to recognise that the only country that should suffer here is Russia."