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United Russian-Ukrainian football league could start in 2014, Gazprom CEO

Published time: February 18, 2013 15:53
Edited time: February 18, 2013 20:39
Gazprom's chairman of the board Alexei Miller. (RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf)

Gazprom's chairman of the board Alexei Miller. (RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf)

A regional football league bringing together the best Russian and Ukrainian clubs could start as early as next autumn, the head of Russia’s gas major Gazprom said on Monday.

The idea was initially backed by only four Russian clubs – Zenit St. Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala, CSKA Moscow and Alania Vladikavkaz, and dubbed “crazy” and “impossible” is becoming more and more realistic. Well, at least Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller, one of the biggest advocates of the initiative hopes so.

Gazprom owns Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg and sponsors the UEFA Champions League. Its headquarters have hosted a meeting between representatives of 14 Russian top-flight clubs, only Terek and Mordovia didn't send their representatives, and one from Ukraine.

The supporters of the idea see the planned Unified Football Championship, as a cash cow that would attract sponsors and TV revenues to help clubs meet UEFA financial fair play rules.

“We think it is realistic to hold the championship from the autumn of 2014 to the spring of 2015,” R-Sport quotes Miller as saying. “But if the time to reach agreements drags on, then we plan to hold the championship from autumn 2015 to spring 2016.”

If created the league will unite the top 9 sides from Russia and as many from Ukraine with the prize fund being around €1 billion, which is comparable to that of the Champions League. Former Russia coach Valery Gazzaev is overseeing its formulation. If everything works out All post-Soviet countries would be eligible, Miller says.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter stressed last month that creating the league is “impossible”.The Russian and Ukrainian Football associations think likewise. The official comments from the Ukrainian sides are yet to follow as is the UEFA approval.

“Of course the approval of UEFA is required, and we will definitely do that,” Miller says. “We can already say with confidence that there will be an interesting discussion. Firstly, this is because of the requirements imposed by UEFA, fair play. I am sure that if the United Championship is created, this requirement will be fully conformed to.”

The European football governing body has allowed regional club competitions before, for instance the Royal League bringing together the clubs from Norway, Denmark and Sweden between 2004 and 2007. But it did not replace national leagues, as the proposed Super League seeks to.