KEIR RADNEDGE on new pressure for the Minister
—– : Vitaly Mutko, a member of the FIFA executive committee at the centre of the 2018/2022 World Cup storm, is back in the middle of controversy – not over the Qatar award this time but Russia’a anti-gay propaganda legislation.
Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister and a former head of the national football federation, will need all the political dexterity which has carried him thus far to steer a path through the latest upset.
The 54-year-old from Krasnodar who first made his name in St Petersburg – on the coat-tails of now-President Vladimir Putin – is the pressure point on whom both the International Olympic Committee and now FIFA are leaning over the legislation enacted earlier this year.
Olympic president Jacques Rogge has demanded “clarification” over the law after a worldwide outcry from gay and human rights campaigners which is marring the run-up to the wildly expensive Sochi Winter Games next February.
Putin’s ambitious vision of a decade of sport is rapidly losing its lustre now that FIFA has also asked the Russians to explain themselves with the 2018 World Cup finals in mind.
FIFA has said: “Russia has committed to provide all visitors and fans with a warm welcome and ensure their safety [and] trusts that the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts will deliver on this promise.”
Discrimination of any form is prohibited under the FIFA statutes whose validity has been brought to high visibility this past year over incidents of racist behaviour in world football.
The Russians had to work hard, during the 2018/2022 bidding battle, to try to counter concerns about racist behaviour by their fans.
Last week Mutko told the media: “I want to ask you to calm down, as in addition to this law we have a constitution that guarantees all citizens a private life.
It is not intended to deprive people of any religion, race or sexual orientation but to ban the promotion of non-traditional relations among the young generation.
“All the athletes and organizations should be relaxed — their rights will be protected … but of course you have to respect the laws of the country you are in.”
Similar sentiments have been expressed this week by Alexei Sorokin, head of the Russian World Cup organising effort.
FIFA has come under heavy criticism over the 2022 World Cup award to Qatar, lately over the timing of the finals in the searing summer temperatures. Russia been left free to carry on with its own preparations . . . until now.