Russia mulls restoring Soviet league
MOSCOW (AFP) –
The Russian Premier League is studying the possibility of organising a new championship that would involve the other states of the former Soviet Union, its chief said on Friday.
“Several premiership clubs have asked the league to study their proposal to create a CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) football championship,” Sergei Pryadkin said in a statement on the league’s official website.
“I consider this idea to be interesting and correct. The league will start the assessment of this project.”
The CIS is a bloc formed after the collapse of the USSR, which includes almost all the ex-Soviet states.
The idea of recreating the Soviet league — which was once among the strongest in Europe — has appeared in the post-Soviet area on a regular basis.
Many Russian football fans are still nostalgic for the days of the Soviet League when the best Russian squads routinely locked horns with teams from across the USSR, notably top Ukrainian sides like Dynamo Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Attempts to resurrect a Soviet football championship were for long just wishful thinking, as the European game’s ruling body UEFA strongly rejected the idea of a cross-border league.
But UEFA changed its position recently, issuing approval to the idea of creating the multi-national leagues in the Scandinavian or Balkan regions that will unite the top teams in a single championship.
“The situation has changed radically after UEFA softened its position,” Pryadkin added.
“The idea is not completely new and we have plenty of creative proposals. We will likely organise a workgroup responsible for the project at the next league’s meeting.”
The idea of creation of a cross-border league received a major boost last week when the chief of Gazprom, the owner and main sponsor of reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg, issued a threat to break away from the Russian championship and form a new league with other teams from the ex-Soviet Union.
“Very, very many people think we could play a CIS football championship and I am also a strong supporter of this idea,” said Alexei Miller, head of the world’s largest gas firm.
“If the time comes to create a new championship then we will act and take steps only with those people who support the idea.”
Russian league big-spenders Anzhi Makhachkala also expressed their interest in the project.
“It’s a sensible and interesting idea,” Anzhi general manager Aivaz Kaziakhmedov told Sport Express daily. “Anzhi will be very much interested in this tournament both from the sporting and commercial points of view.”