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Russian clubs back continued limit on foreign players after football boss proposes abolishing restrictions

Russian clubs back continued limit on foreign players after football boss proposes abolishing restrictions
The majority of Russian Premier League clubs have reportedly pushed to keep a limit on the number of foreign players in squads after the head of the nation’s football union proposed abandoning the restrictions.

Russian football is in the midst of a spell of soul-searching after a series of disappointing campaigns from clubs in European competition as well as the national team’s underwhelming showing at Euro 2020.

Discussions over changes to the Russian Premier League have included removing the limit on foreign players, which allows for a maximum of eight overseas stars – commonly known in Russia as ‘legionnaires’ – in clubs' 25-man squads.

There is no limit to the number of those eight foreigners who can be on the pitch at any one time, and players from countries in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are not included in the restrictions.

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On Monday, Russian Football Union (RFU) president Alexander Dyukov confirmed that the organization had suggested completely abolishing the limit to the Premier League’s 16 teams.   

“In 2008, legionnaires played more than in the 2020/21 season. Nevertheless, our national team performed better,” Dyukov had told TV channel Rossiya 24 in justifying the potential step.


However, at a meeting the same day the majority of clubs reportedly backed softer reforms, favoring a ‘10+15’ approach which allows teams to have up to 10 foreigners in their squads.  

According to the Russian media, of the 16 Russian Premier League clubs, only Rubin Kazan and three others backed completely removing the limit on foreigners.

The majority of clubs also supported sticking with the current format of the league in which teams play each other home and away across the season. Alternative proposals had suggested more matches between top clubs.

The RFU says a final vote will be held at a general meeting on August 31, after which a decision will be made. 


The latest ideas to tinker with the Russian top flight have come as the country slips further down the UEFA ‘coefficient’ table which measures the success of clubs from different nations in European competition.

Russia finds itself a lowly ninth in the current standings, one place behind Scotland.

The rule on limits to foreign players is the latest iteration of restrictions which have been in place in varying forms since 2005.

The previous version – which was replaced ahead of the 2020-21 season – had allowed 10 foreign players in a team’s 25-man squad but only six on the pitch at any one time.

The logic behind the restrictions are that they will supposedly allow homegrown talent more of a chance to develop at the highest level in Russia.

However, critics argue that the limit has led to inflated prices and wages for Russian players and complacency that they are assured of places in top-level teams merely to meet quotas. 

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The restrictions also haven’t manifested in success for Russian clubs in Europe. None of Russia’s three Champions League representatives made it beyond the group stage of last season’s competition, and there were no Russian teams beyond the last 32 stage of the Europa League.

This season, just one Russian club – Zenit St. Petersburg – will be in the Champions League group stage proper, with two clubs – Spartak and Lokomotiv Moscow – appearing in the Europa League.  

Despite the unexpected run to the World Cup quarter-final on home soil in 2018, the Russian national team has consistently disappointed, most recently at Euro 2020 where the team won just one of their three games, finishing bottom of their group.

That early exit prompted a managerial change, with Valeri Karpin replacing Stanislav Cherchesov. 

Russia currently lie 41st in the FIFA men's rankings, one place below Venezuela and just above Qatar. 

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