FIFA has rejected an appeal to kick Russia out of the World Cup over its takeover of Crimea – a move that some suggested could have given Israel a place in the tournament, writes Justin Cohen.

US Senators Mark Kirk and Dan Coats had written to the governing body’s president Sepp Blatter calling for an emergency meeting to consider action over this summer’s event in Rio and also for Russia to be stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup.

WCBut in a letter to the pair, seen by the Jewish News today, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke ruled out such action. He wrote: “With regard to your reference to the principles of non-discrimination and stance against racism enshrined in article three of the FIFA statutes, please be informed that such statutes are applicable to and binding for members of FIFA, but not per se to entities outside the pyramidal structure of the game.

“Moreover we would like to point out that participation of representatives of FIFA’s member associations in the World Cup…is based on sporting merit  and that only a violation of the FIFA statutes could lead to…the expulsion from a FIfA competition.”

But Senator Coats told the Jewish News: “FIFA suggests that outrageous behaviour by member states does not matter because such decisions are irrelevant to soccer. This argument is not supported by facts . Yugoslavia was banned from international competition in 1992 and 1994 because of its illegal behaviour during the Balkan wars. This suspension had no connection to the playing field. I continue to call for upon FIFA leadership to impose the same punishment on Russia.”

Reports last week suggested that should the Russians be kicked-out of the tournament, Israel could take their place having finished behind them in third spot in their World Cup qualifying group.