Sweden's UEFA first vice-president Karl-Erik Nilsson has admitted he voted for the return of Russian youth teams ©Getty Images

UEFA's first vice-president Karl-Erik Nilsson is facing criticism after being forced to admit he voted to allow Russian youth teams to return to competition.

Nilsson is a former President of the Swedish Football Association, who left to become chairman of the Swedish Sports Confederation earlier this year.

Both organisations oppose Russians competing internationally following the invasion of Ukraine, but UEFA's Executive Committee voted to readmit the country's young teams last week.

Sky News in the United Kingdom reported that Nilsson had surprisingly backed the plan but he later told Fotbollskanalen: "I do not recognise myself at all in the British media description of [UEFA's] handling of the issue."

However, 66-year-old Nilsson, a retired referee, has now released a new statement admitting that he did vote in favour of the plan.

"I am sorry that my position in UEFA, and the decision there, have been interpreted as that I do not, as a representative of the Swedish Sports Confederation and the Swedish sports movement, continue to stand for our common stance," he said.

"I do.

"However, I understand that UEFA wants to review whether we have thought correctly from the children's perspective, so we exclude the risk that we allow children to be punished for, in this case, cruel wars and acts of violence that adults are responsible for."

Jesper Møller Christensen, the chairman of the Danish Football Association (DBU) and another UEFA Executive Committee member, is also facing pressure after also reportedly voting in favour of Russian reinstatement.

UEFA has argued that "a generation of minors" must not be deprived of the right to compete in international football because of the war.

The Executive Committee has also asked for a technical solution to be found to enable the reinstatement of Russian under-17 boys and girls teams to competitions, even if draws have already been made.

UEFA has voted to allow Russian youth teams to return but many countries have said they will refuse to play them ©Getty Images
UEFA has voted to allow Russian youth teams to return but many countries have said they will refuse to play them ©Getty Images

Several European nations have responded by saying they would refuse to play Russian teams, including Sweden who are hosts of the 2024 UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship.

The country has announced that it would not allow Russia to compete there.

Denmark, England, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland have also joined the boycott.

Sweden's Minister for Social Affairs is among those who have criticised Nilsson.

"My view is that the Swedish sports movement has in an exemplary way maintained a clear and united line on not opening competitions for Russian and Belarusian athletes," Jakob Forssmed told Fotbollskanalen.

"That is why I was surprised, and the behaviour seems remarkable. 

"Opening up for Russian and Belarusian competitors risks normalising Russia's brutal war of aggression in a situation when nothing has changed on the ground."

Sky News reported that Nilsson was the first Executive Committee member to speak in a private meeting on the issue, after UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin.

He claimed to the channel that UEFA would still vote on the issue, despite a governing body statement indicating that it is a done deal.

"Before that decision, I will of course put forward the position of the Swedish Sports Confederation, the Swedish Football Association and the Swedish sports movement," he said.

Møller has not yet commented on whether he voted in favour of allowing Russian youth teams back.

The DBU, the Danish Sports Confederation and the Danish Government would all be against the plan.

"Members of the UEFA Executive Committee have signed a confidentiality statement in relation to votes and more, and Jesper Møller therefore refers, as before, to the President of UEFA for statements on behalf of the UEFA Executive Committee," the DBU said.

Jesper Møller, right, is also facing pressure in Denmark ©Getty Images
Jesper Møller, right, is also facing pressure in Denmark ©Getty Images

Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said Møller should reveal how he voted.

"I assume that Jesper Møller has voted in accordance with the Danish Government," he said to Ekstra Bladet

"The DBU has been out to say that they do not want to meet Russian teams. 

"I support that. 

"My impression is that interests have been taken care of in accordance of with what the DBU believes. 

"If not, then we need to talk."

UEFA suspended all Russian teams from its competitions in February 2022, shortly after the start of the country's invasion of Ukraine.

It also cancelled a sponsorship contract with Russian energy giant Gazprom and moved the UEFA Champions League Final and UEFA Super Cup away from Saint Petersburg and Kazan respectively.