Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appeared to undermine the UK and Ireland’s bid for Euro 2028 by suggesting Ukraine be named hosts.
Johnson also joined a chorus of criticism of Russia, who only declared their interest in staging the championship hours before the deadline on Wednesday.
“The idea of Russia holding any football tournament or any kind of cultural event right now is beyond satire,” he said.
“I can’t believe that anybody would seriously consider their suggestion. I think the best thing possible would be for the entire Russian forces to retire forthwith from Ukraine and hand the tournament to them.”
The UK and Ireland are the frontrunners to host Euro 2028 and had expected to be the only party proceed to the formal bid stage.
But with just hours to spare the Russian Football Union (RFU) announced it too wanted to be considered, as did Turkey. Both nations had shown interest earlier in the process.
European governing body Uefa is due to make a final decision on the hosts in September 2023.
A spokesperson for Johnson said he still backed the joint bid from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“He was making a moral point that aggressors such as a Russia should not be given a platform on the international stage,” they said.
“Never mind the prestige of hosting a world renowned sporting competition. This suggestion is a brazen and sorely misjudged intervention from Russia given their appalling actions in Ukraine.
“But clearly, we remain entirely committed to the UK and Ireland bid for Euro 2028, which retains the government’s support.”
Russia has been banned from much of international sport, including football, in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
But while their national teams are banned from competition, Uefa has not suspended their football association the RFU, meaning it is free to bid for tournaments such as Euro 2028.