22 August 2014

Crimean teams could cost Russia the right to host 2018 World Cup

The Irish Times: 22. August 2014

Vladimir Putin attended the Brazil World Cup and took part in the handover ceremony with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Brasilian President Dilma Rousseff.

UEFA has spoken: The European football body won't recognize Crimean clubs' results in Russian Cup matches. 

Officials fear penalty for breaching UEFA regulations in Russian Cup preliminary matches and falling foul of Vladimir Putin
SKChF Sevastopol won 2-0 at TSK Simferopol on Tuesday last week while Zhemchuzhina Yalta went down 2-0 at home to Sochi in the first round of the Russian Cup. On Saturday the winners of the two ties met, SKChF advancing to the third round on penalties after a goalless draw. Their reward is a home tie against Taganrog to be played on Friday.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about those results, although SKChF were fined 30,000 roubles (€623) after their fans invaded the pitch at TSK (who were fined 10,000 roubles for failing to keep spectators off the pitch). But context is everything: SKChF Sevastopol, TSK Simferopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta are clubs based in Crimea.

That is of huge significance and not only because their presence in Russian competitions continues the process of normalisation in Crimea, integrating the peninsula into the Russian state. There is also a fear within the Russian Football Union (RFU) that Crimean teams in these competitions could cost Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup.
After the Russian annexation of Crimea in March Tavriya Simferopol and FC Sevastopol played the rest of the season in the Ukrainian league, with their ultras making clear that they saw themselves as Ukrainians. At the end of the season both clubs were disbanded, some said for financial as much as political reasons, with debts going unpaid.
The new entities, along with Zhemchuzhina, were accepted into the RFU at the end of July, although the Crimean federation has not yet been admitted. Uefa, though, still recognises the clubs as Ukrainian, placing their involvement in the competition of another nation in contravention of Uefa statutes. FIFA’s regulations would allow it but only with the agreement of both national associations.
FIFA has said it will defer to UEFA’s jurisdiction and UEFA has done nothing more than encourage the federations to negotiate but the potential consequences are profound, as was made clear by a recording of the meeting at which the RFU decided to accept the Crimean clubs, which was published by Novaya Gazeta last week.
The transcript is extraordinary, partly for what it reveals of tensions within the RFU but mainly for the way it shows how the executive committee sees itself as trapped between, on the one hand, Vladimir Putin and his desire for the full integration of Crimea into Russia, and on the other, UEFA and FIFA (and the sanctions that could be imposed on them and their businesses by the US and the EU).

In terms of the World Cup the key lines come early, after Vladimir Yakunin, the head of Russia Railways, accused Yevgeny Giner, the president of the Russian champions, CSKA Moscow, of “crawling on his belly”. Giner was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, in 1960 and made his fortune in energy and cars. He is a former president of the RFU and a close ally of Roman Abramovich. He fears Russian clubs could be expelled from the Champions League and that the World Cup could be taken from Russia as part of sanctions or as a specific penalty for breaching the UEFA regulation.

UEFA decision it won't recognize Crimean clubs' results in Russian Cup matches is a blow to Moscow, Russian football, and possibly Russia's planned hosting of the 2018 World Cup, since their inclusion in the Russian Cup matches suggests Russian football officials acted against UEFA regulations.The question is now how or whether Russia will be penalized.

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