The Socceroos may be withdrawn from the FIFA World Cup in Russia if the British government pulls England from the tournament.
In the wake of the decision to expel two Russian intelligence officers posing as diplomats in Australia, the Turnbull government has now revealed it is seriously considering boycotting the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Speaking after Australia joined more than 20 other countries in agreeing to send Kremlin representatives back to Moscow, foreign minister Julie Bishop suggested the Socceroos could be banned from competing in the sporting spectacle — as the UK’s allies continue to isolate Russia in response to the poisoning of a former spy in England.
In her vague statement, Bishop didn’t specify whether the Socceroos team or official envoys were the focus of the boycott.
“The impact of sanctions, of course, is strongest when it is done collectively, and so we will continue to liaise with the [UK] Foreign Office and other allies and partners on this issue as to whether further action will be taken in response to the deployment of a chemical nerve agent in Salisbury,” Bishop said.
“There are a whole range of further options of action that could be taken.
“The boycott of the World Cup is one of the further actions that could be taken in relation to this matter.”
The boycott of the World Cup is one of the further actions that could be taken in relation to this matter.
Bishop later tweeted a link to an SBS News story on the boycott, saying, “That is wrong – the government is not considering a boycott of the #World Cup.”
— Julie Bishop (@JulieBishopMP) March 27, 2018
Talk of an Australian boycott follows calls from British MPs for England to be pulled from the event, and for Prime Minister Theresa May to then urge allies to do the same.
Theresa May had already announced the UK would not be sending any MPs or royals to Russia.
Iceland has since joined the UK in announcing a diplomatic boycott.
If May was to block the English team’s involvement in the World Cup, and then persuade allies to withdraw, the tournament would be all but over.
Of the 16 European Union states that have already agreed to expel Russian diplomats, six are due to appear in the tournament, including reigning champions Germany, and perennial heavyweights Spain and France.
The Socceroos squad is currently preparing for an international friendly against Colombia in London on Tuesday evening local time.