Russian Football Union (RFU) vice president Nikita Simonyan says he doesn’t consider the decision by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to ban British officials from attending the Russia 2018 World Cup “important.”
Soviet football icon Simonyan, who won an Olympic gold medal and reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, called for sport to not become mixed up in politics.
“It’s not that important, that the officials aren’t coming, that’s their problem. What’s important, is whether the [England] team wants to come. The World Cup is held once every four years,” the 91-year-old said on Wednesday.
His comments came after May declared no British officials or members of the royal family would visit Russia in retaliation for Moscow’s perceived involvement in the nerve gas attack on former British spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK.
The decision means that English Football Association President Prince William will not attend the tournament, the most high-profile delegate to be prevented from attending.
Simonyan’s words come as the UK foreign office urged British fans that do travel to Russia 2018 to “be aware of possibility of anti-British harassment” and to “avoid talking about politics publicly.”