Russia agrees football integration for new territories – minister
Football clubs from four new Russian territories will be integrated into the country’s leagues, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko confirmed on Monday.
The regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye, as well as the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, officially became part of the Russian Federation last month after voters in the areas overwhelmingly supported the move in referendums.
It has now been reported that clubs from the regions will be integrated into Russia’s football championships, after ministers reached an agreement with the Russian Football Union (RFU).
“We are engaged in the restoration of sports infrastructure,” Chernyshenko said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
“We agreed with the RFU that we will integrate local clubs into our regular football championships.
“All this is being done to make the new regions feel like full-fledged Russian participants.”
The announcement comes after representatives of Crimean football said that eight clubs from the region are ready to join Russia’s leagues, following a long period in limbo.
“We are very much looking forward to this, we hope that this will happen in the very near future,” said the minister of sports of the Republic of Crimea, Sheriff Osmanov, as quoted by TASS earlier this month.
“Football infrastructure, in principle, is ready today. There are eight professional clubs on the territory of Crimea that are ready to participate in our common football main tournament. We have long missed the big competitions,” Osmanov added.
The development would come after Russian Premier League (RPL) president Aleksandr Alaev said Russia had previous initiatives to develop football in Crimea knocked back by UEFA and FIFA.
“I had a meeting with FIFA and UEFA in Helsinki at the UEFA Super Cup [in August]. These were informal contracts. Russian football was discussed,” Alaev revealed to Championat.
“The conversation was about the fact that since 2014 Crimea has been a special territory under the auspices of UEFA.
“During these past eight years, we have come up with a large number of initiatives, but they were all blocked.
“At the same time, our colleagues from FIFA and UEFA also failed to implement any of their initiatives.
“Even the money allocated by the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee for the development of football in Crimea could not be sent to the Crimean Football Union (CFU).
“There was €1 or €2 million ($1-2 million). But the money got stuck because they were trying to do it through Ukraine.
“As far as I understand, [the money] is now on UEFA’s account. They could not do anything with it, and we, among other things, discussed this more than once with our European colleagues,” Alaev added.
UEFA previously showed support on the matter when it allowed the CFU to be established in July 2015, ahead of an eight-team league getting underway the following month.
Meanwhile, Russian teams remain banned from official UEFA and FIFA competitions as a response to the military conflict in Ukraine.