Banned Russian clubs unveil plans against UEFA
A group of Russian football clubs have filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a bid to overturn UEFA's decision to ban them from European competitions next season.
CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Dynamo Moscow and PFC Sochi have raised their concerns with the Swiss-based authority.
“All the clubs have requested an expedited review of the complaint. We expect that the sporting principle will be respected,” read a statement from the CSKA Moscow press office.
Russian national teams and clubs were initially prohibited from competing in international tournaments when FIFA and UEFA followed an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation and implemented bans at the end of February as a response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
That meant that the Russian men's national team was removed from a scheduled Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying semifinal playoff against Poland in Moscow, with the Poles eventually progressing to the tournament after beating Sweden in Warsaw.
The Russian women's national team was frozen out of this summer's European Championships in England, for which they had already qualified, while Spartak Moscow were ejected from the Europa League at the last-16 stage.
The Russian Football Union (RFU) has appealed the bans with the CAS, with a final verdict still pending.
UEFA released a string of updated sanctions against Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs on May 2 which bar them from all European competitions for the 2022/2023 season.
That step has trigged the latest action from the quartet of Russian clubs.
It directly affects already-crowned Russian Premier League champions Zenit, while Dynamo Moscow, PFC Sochi and CSKA Moscow currently occupy European qualification spots with just two matches to spare.
Zenit said in a statement that the club has "always been guided by the principles of the UEFA mission, laid down in the organization's charter... following the spirit of mutual respect, understanding and fair play, to exclude discrimination on political, religious, racial and other grounds."
CSKA remarked that they hope such principles will be followed too, as the club "strives to play in European competitions and will fight for high places in the [Russian] championship until the very end."
"Filing a claim before the end of the season is associated with tough deadlines for appealing certain UEFA decisions," the club added, while citing a timeframe of 10 calendar days.
Following a similar line, Sochi said that the exclusion of Russian teams "contradicts the fundamental principles and objectives of UEFA, which are part of the strategy for the development of football in Europe, which leads to a violation of the integrity of the football ecosystem".
"Actions against Russian clubs are based solely on their nationality, are contrary to sporting principles, and are inherently discriminatory since football is no longer accessible to everyone," Sochi went on, expressing their "sincere hope" that CAS' decision will be made "in line with the sporting values defined by UEFA in the framework of its activities, and the spirit of football competitions".
Talking to Match TV, however, former Zenit star Konstantin Lepekhin doubted that the appeal would be successful.
"Of course, when an illegal decision is made, it is necessary to challenge it legally. But understanding how everything works in the world, any illegal decision somehow becomes legal by rearranging two or three words somehow," Lepekhin claimed. "Therefore, I have doubts about the fact that it will be possible to achieve something.
"Perhaps, if they have absolutely nothing to oppose our statements, they will delay for a year or two, [then] pull [out]. And if there is at least one word that can be used against us, they will do it," Lepekhin concluded.