Sweden are among several European nations who have warned they will refuse to play Russia's under-17s after UEFA controversially lifted a ban on them competing ©Getty Images

Several European nations have declared they will refuse to play Russia's under-17 teams, who have been allowed to return to competitions by UEFA.

Russia had been banned from FIFA and UEFA competitions since the end of February 2022 because of the invasion of Ukraine, and UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin had claimed in April it would be "very difficult" to lift its suspension until the war ends.

But the UEFA Executive Committee at this week's meeting in the Cypriot city of Limassol opted for a return limited to Russia's under-17 sides under a neutral flag, anthem and playing kit and with home matches played at neutral venues, claiming "children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults".

In a similar fashion to February 2022 when FIFA initially allowed Russia to play a FIFA World Cup qualifying playoff against Poland before U-turning after opponents Poland refused to face them, UEFA's proposal has sparked a backlash from numerous European nations.

UEFA wants a solution to allow its men's and women's under-17 teams to compete in their respective European Championships, even though qualification draw has already taken place.

Sweden, hosts of the 2024 UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship, are among the nations who have vowed to boycott matches against Russia.

The Swedish Football Association – whose former President Karl-Erik Nilsson is first vice-president of UEFA - promised it "will not allow" Russia to compete in the tournament if they qualify.

It said its stance was aligned with the Swedish Olympic Committee, Swedish Paralympic Committee and Swedish Sports Confederation.

Ukraine have already been joined by Denmark, England, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland in refusing to play any Russian football team during the war ©Getty Images
Ukraine have already been joined by Denmark, England, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland in refusing to play any Russian football team during the war ©Getty Images

Ukrainian Association of Football, whose President Andriy Pavelko is also on the UEFA Executive Committee, has warned it will refuse to play Russia and urged other countries to follow suits.

It claimed the decision was "groundless" and "tolerates Russia's aggressive policy", and called on UEFA to reconsider.

Until they were banned, Russian and Ukrainian teams and clubs had been kept apart in draws for UEFA and FIFA competitions since 2014 because of the War in Donbas.

Denmark, England, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland have all joined a boycott of matches against Russia following UEFA's announcement in Limassol. 

Danish Football Association (DBU) head of communications Jakob Høyer confirmed "we are not going to see a Danish national team against a Russian national team", as reported by Government-owned TV 2.

DBU President Jesper Møller Christensen is another member of the UEFA Executive Committee.

Polish Football Association President Cezary Kulesza said on X, formerly Twitter, he was "surprised" by the UEFA decision and his country would not play Russia in any competition, a stance matched by the Latvian Football Federation, Lithuanian Football Federation and Norwegian Football Federation.

The English Football Association confirmed to Reuters it will not play Russia.

Ireland became the latest to join the boycotts after the Football Association of Ireland's (FAI) latest Board meeting.

"At a meeting of the FAI Board last night, it was unanimously agreed to re-affirm our clearly stated position that no representative Ireland teams, at any age group, would play against any team from Russia in any competition at the present time," an FAI spokesperson told the Irish Independent. 

insidethegames has asked UEFA for a comment on the boycotts.

The Russian Football Union (RFU), whose President Aleksandr Dyukov has remained on the UEFA Executive Committee even while his country has been banned from competition, welcomed the decision and vowed to discuss conditions of participation with the European governing body.

"The admission of Russian junior teams is an important step towards Russia’s return to official international matches," the RFU said, as reported by Russian state-run news agency TASS.

"In the near future, the RFU will discuss with UEFA the specific conditions and details of the participation of our junior teams in competitions under the auspices of UEFA.

"We will also continue our dialogue with UEFA on the return of our clubs, adult and youth teams to official international competitions."

The return of the under-17 sides comes despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommending a continued ban on national teams from Russia and Belarus.

The IOC has controversially advised International Federations to lift blanket bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not support the war in Ukraine and are not affiliated to the military, but only as individual neutrals.

Football has long proved a sporting outlier in distinguishing between national teams from Russia and Belarus.

While Russia has been banned because of the war, its military ally Belarus has been permitted to continue playing European and international matches, with home ties behind closed doors at neutral grounds.