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Russia's Vitaly Mutko barred from FIFA Council

World football's governing body has barred Russia's deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, from the FIFA Council. Mutko is the head of the organizing committee for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

FIFA's Review Committee ruled that Vitaly Mutko cannot run for re-election for a place on the FIFA Council due to his position as deputy prime minister of Russia. Mutko, who is also president of Russia's football federation (RFS), said he will not appeal the decision.

"I wanted to get re-elected, but FIFA has changed its criteria," Mutko was quoted by Russia's Tass news agency as saying. "A new criterion has been introduced; political neutrality. They want the organization to be politically neutral, so that officials and representatives of the government don't get elected, and that's their right."

Mutko, 58, became a member of FIFA's powerful Executive Committee, in 2009. It was replaced by the FIFA Council as part of a package of reforms passed at the FIFA Congress in February 2016. He was the chairman of Russia's successful bid to host the 2018 World Cupand is now the head of the organizing committeee. He will loses his post at FIFA just three months before Russia is to host the FIFA Confederations Cup.

New FIFA integrity checks

FIFA introduced integrity checks of potential candidates for office in December in response to a corruption scandal involving several FIFA officials in 2015, one that eventually resulted in the resignation of longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Mutko, who was promoted from Russian sports minister to deputy prime minister last year, failed the eligibility test undertaken by the FIFA Review Committee, but the decision was reportedly not connected to a doping scandal in which he had been directly implicated. 

The European governing body, UEFA, now has just four candidates for election to the FIFA Council: Sandor Csyani of Hungary, Costakis Koutsokoumnis of Cyprus, Dejan Savicevic of Montenegro, and Geir Thorsteinsson of Iceland. They are expected to run unopposed when UEFA elects its candidates for the FIFA Council in a congress in Helsinki next month.

dv/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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