Crimean football clubs face dilemma over allegiance

Crimean football clubs face dilemma over allegiance

by AFP

Wednesday Apr 16, 2014. 12:00

Crimea's two Ukrainian Premier League football clubs have been left facing an unenviable dilemma after the lightning annexation of the Black Sea peninsula by Russia from Ukraine.

With Moscow now making every effort to harmonise every aspect of life in Crimea -- even the clocks -- with that in mainland Russia, it would seem likely that the clubs would become part of the Russian league.

But with Russia's seizure of Crimea not recognised by the international community, such a move risks problems with FIFA and UEFA, both for the clubs and the Russian league itself.

Both the Crimean clubs have endured a poor season in the Ukrainian premiere league amid the political troubles -- FC Sevastopol are languishing in 12th while Tavria Simferopol are in the relegation zone in 15th.

Ukrainian businessman Vadim Novinsky, the owner of FC Sevastopol, who are based in the Crimean city of the same name, expressed his desire to stay in the Ukrainian league.

"We'll finish this season in Sevastopol but the club's future will depend on the further development of the political situation between the two countries," said Novinsky, who has business interests in the Ukrainian cities of Mykolaiv and Krivyi Rig.

"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."

-'Need to clarify the situation'-

Sevastopol FC's president Alexander Krasilnikov, who previously backed the club joining the Russian league, said their future allegiance would depend on FIFA and UEFA decisions.

"Many of the fans want the Crimean teams to join the Russian league," Krasilnikov 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 penalised.

"We'll send a letter to UEFA asking for advice on how to act in the existing situation.

"We'd like to clarify the situation as soon as possible but everything will depend on the world and European football ruling bodies."

Meanwhile, Russia's Football Union (RFU) has started the process of incorporating the Crimean football federation and the local clubs into the RFU system.

"We want to include the Crimean clubs in Russian championships," RFU boss Nikolai Tolstykh said in a recent interview with the Russian press.

"We're set to act within the Russian government's resolutions. We're currently holding consultations with FIFA, UEFA and the Ukrainian Football Federation about the inclusion of the Crimean football federation into the RFU."

Ukraine's Football Federation (FFU) chief Anatoliy Popov said the Crimean clubs have the right to decide their own allegiance, adding that any changes should be done according to the existing formal procedures.

"We're not set to dictate our will to the clubs," Popov was quoted 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."

-'We don't need permission'-

Meanwhile, Dmitry Selyuk, the former deputy president of Tavria Simferopol, said the clubs would unlikely 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 insisted.

He said that the problems would only arise for clubs competing in Champions League and Europa League football but this issue was hardly going to arise for the relatively lowly Crimean clubs.

"Neither of the Crimean sides are in contention for a place in European football. Football should be beyond politics, it should unite people," Selyuk added.

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