Boris Johnson has backed the idea of Ukraine automatically qualifying for the men’s football World Cup later this year – though the British prime minster appeared unaware it would mean knocking Scotland and Wales out of the competition.
Speaking in Brussels at a Nato summit in Brussels a month after the Russian invasion, the PM was asked if he would support the idea after he earlier said Ukraine should be handed the hosting of the next Euros competition.
Speaking in Brussels, he said: “Sounds like a good idea to me but I’m out of area here, I’ve got to admit that’s not my strong subject.
“I don’t see why not, is my view.”
He added: “Let me put it this way, given what Ukraine has been going through, given the privations that Ukrainian footballers have had to endure, I’m sure that every possible sympathy and allowances should be made for them.”
In the knock-out stage of play-off qualification, Wales take on Austria today, and the winner will face either Scotland or Ukraine, a match which has been postponed until June. The final winner will automatically qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
A No. 10 source admitted it was “clear he was not the best person to decide qualifying rules” for any football tournament”, and that Johnson said “bear in mind what they have suffered”.
The Ukranian league has suspended, with no guarantee of when it will restart. Russia was due to face Poland in the qualifying play-offs, but has been barred from taking part in the 2022 World Cup since the invasion.