Thu, Apr 17, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Crimean clubs face dilemma over which league to play in: Ukraine’s or Russia’s

AFP, KIEV

Crimea’s two Ukrainian Premier League soccer clubs are facing an unenviable dilemma after the lightning annexation of the Black Sea peninsula by Russia from Ukraine.

With Moscow making every effort to harmonize every aspect of life in Crimea — even the clocks — with that in Russia, it would seem likely that the clubs will join the Russian Football Premier League.

Yet with Russia’s seizure of the peninsula not recognized by the international community, such a move risks problems with FIFA and UEFA, both for the clubs and the Russian league.

Both Crimean clubs have endured a poor season in the Ukrainian Premier League amid the political troubles, with FC Sevastopol languishing in 12th, while SC Tavria Simferopol are in the relegation zone in 15th.

Sevastopol owner and Ukrainian businessman Vadim Novinsky has expressed his desire to stay in the Ukrainian league.

“We’ll finish this season in Sevastopol [city], but the club’s future will depend on the further development of the political situation between the two countries,” Novinsky said.

“We’re also considering a change of the club’s location. Possibly we’ll chose one of Ukraine’s southern cities as the hometown for the club,” he added.

Sevastopol president Alexander Krasilnikov, who previously backed the club joining the Russian league, said their allegiance would depend on the decisions of world and European soccer’s governing bodies.

“Many of the fans want the Crimean teams to join the Russian league,” he said. “But we shall act according to FIFA and UEFA regulations. Otherwise all the parties concerned, including the club, the Ukrainian and Russian football ruling bodies may be penalized.”

“We’ll send a letter to UEFA asking for advice on how to act in the existing situation,” he added. “

Meanwhile, Russia’s Football Union has started the process of incorporating the Crimean Republican Football Federation and local clubs into its system.

“We want to include the Crimean clubs in Russian championships,” union boss Nikolai Tolstykh told the Russian press.

Ukrainian Football Federation chief Anatoliy Popov said the Crimean clubs have the right to decide their own allegiance, adding that any changes should be done according to existing procedures.

“We’re not set to dictate our will to the clubs,” Popov was quoted as saying by Ukrainian media.

“Love cannot be compelled,” he added dryly. “But there’s a formal procedure and we will follow it. In case the clubs have a desire to move to Russia we shall sit down and negotiate the existing situation.”

Meanwhile, former Tavria Simferopol deputy president Dmitry Selyuk said the clubs were unlikely to experience problems if they decide to join the Russian league.

“From the legal point of view, the Crimean clubs don’t need anybody’s permission to join the Russian league,” he said.

Selyuk added that problems would only arise for clubs competing in UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League tournaments, but this was hardly applicable to the relatively lowly Crimean clubs.

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