UEFA vice president quits role as Swedish sports chief after Sky News revealed he voted for Russia’s football return


UEFA’s second in command has quit his role leading sport in Sweden after facing criticism sparked by Sky News revealing he voted to end Russia’s blanket ban from European football.

Karl-Erik Nilsson admitted trust in him had been affected by the decision as he stepped down today with immediate effect after barely four months as Swedish Sports Confederation chair.

It followed a week of emergency talks following the Sky revelation about his conduct in a UEFA meeting.

The Swedish Sports Confederation along with the country’s football federation has opposed Russian teams being allowed to compete internationally since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched by Vladimir Putin in February 2022.

But, as the first vice president of European football’s governing body, Mr Nilsson voted to readmit Russia’s under-17s teams into UEFA competitions.

Karl-Erik Nilsson (left, pictured in 2019 with Aleksander Ceferin) voted for the partial return of Russian teams
Karl-Erik Nilsson (L) in 2019 with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin

He said: “It is a very difficult decision to now choose to step aside as I have felt great dedication and joy in the mission.

“But since it has proven difficult to combine my two roles and that it can affect trust in me and Swedish sports.”

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He initially sought to dispute Sky’s reporting of his vote in the contentious UEFA executive committee decision before a statement days later trying to justify it.

That only heightened the scrutiny within Sweden about him remaining in charge of the Swedish Sports Confederation – a position he has now relinquished under mounting pressure.

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Mr Nilsson said in a statement: “The recent media attention and focus on my person does not benefit Swedish sports. The attention has triggered a lot of hatred and personal attacks.”

The statement from the Swedish Sports Confederation drew a direct link to the Russia vote by saying Mr Nilsson’s senior UEFA role was “a position that has received a lot of attention recently”.

It was only in May that he took up the role overseeing the umbrella organisation for Swedish sport, having led the country’s football federation since 2012.

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