Ministers in Britain are under pressure to order England boycott the World Cup in Russia this summer, as tensions mount over the poisoning in Shropshire of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent, which has been identified by British investigators, but not yet publicly named. The pair are in a coma, with medics fearing it may be impossible to save their lives. A policeman, Nick Bailey, who attended the pair also suffered poisoning. He is said to be in a serious condition, but is able to talk. British police are investigating the possibility that the Russian state was behind the poisoning.
"Very difficult" for England to attend the World Cup
With tensions running high across the country and in House of Commons, many are demanding that the English team should boycott the tournament. Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary group on Russia, said it would be "very difficult" for the England team to compete in the World Cup in Russia this summer if Moscow is linked to the attack.
Any boycott of the World Cup by the English football team itself though would almost certainly lead to punishment from FIFA, meaning the FA would fiercely resist pressure from politicians to make such a move.
Primer Minister May willing to demand England boycott
British Prime Minister Theresa May is willing to demand that England officials boycott the World Cup in Russia over the poisoning it is shown to have been committed by the Russian state. Mrs May said: "Depending on what comes out in relation to the investigation into the attack on the two individuals that took place in Salisbury...it might be appropriate to look at whether ministers and other dignitaries should attend the World Cup in Russia."
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said proof was needed before jumping conclusions about what happened to the 66-year-old former spy, but that action would be taken once authorities knew exactly what had happened. The Russian embassy in the UK has denied it was a "planned action by the Russian security services".
On Tuesday, British foreign minister Boris Johnson had said that British officials could boycott the tournament if Russia is proved to be involved, while Royal family sources have said that Prince William, the president of the Football Association, would not attend the event.
FIFA monitoring World Cup situation
Meanwhile, officials at FIFA are highly nervous about the situation, with this crisis coming on the back of the blockade of World Cup 2022 host Qatar by its neighbours, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. "The doubts about the choice of World Cup hosts for 2018 and 2022 have now become serious problems due to political questions", said an official.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said, "The World Cup should not be happening in Moscow at all because it was corruptly awarded. Putin loves using these moments to glorify Russia and he will want to do so again. It will be like 1936 all over again."