Connecticut’s senior senator has a new mission: removing the 2018 World Cup from Russia.
In a letter to the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for quadrennial soccer championship to be removed from Russia due to President Vladimir Putin’s military and political support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Putin’s clear complicity in the heinous Syrian chemical attack must immediately disqualify Russia from hosting the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament,” Blumenthal said. “The missile strike sent a message to the Assad regime and his Russian enablers, but will have no meaning without a comprehensive plan to increase the cost of Russia’s involvement. The United States and European Union must unite to enforce strong, multilateral sanctions on Russia’s energy, defense and banking sectors. Putin cares deeply about his strong-man image and uses international sporting events like the Olympics and World Cup to bolster his ego. Revoking the World Cup—as part of a comprehensive strategy— is one message Putin will immediately understand.”
Russia was awarded the hosting rights in December 2010 to the next World Cup. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for June 14, 2018. Blumenthal said that the Putin government will use the World Cup to “distract Russians from his illegal international actions in the lead up to his own re-election campaign next year,” adding that United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and the other countries that bid to host the 2018 World Cup “would assist in the location of a suitable alternative venue.” However, the USSF has yet to publicly volunteer to assist in the relocation of the 2018 games.
From a business perspective, the World Cup is one of the most lucrative international events. FIFA made $4.8 billion in profits from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It is unclear what type of financial impact would occur if the 2018 tournament was abruptly relocated elsewhere. No country has ever had its World Cup hosting rights revoked and the games have only been canceled in 1942 and 1946 as a result of World War II.