MOSCOW: Alexey Miller, president of Russian energy giant, is confident that the proposed Unified Football League will launch next autumn with the full backing of European federation UEFA.
The UFL would be a recreation of the old Soviet Supreme League, featuring top clubs from Russia and other former USSR states. If it goes ahead it will drive a coach and horses through traditional resistance from the international authorities to cross-border championships.
Supporters, notably in Ukraine, believe the new league would drive enhanced sponsorship and television revenues.
Gazprom, which owns Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg and is a major Champions League sponsor, is confident its financial investment gives it extra leverage at political level.
On Monday Miller met representatives of 14 top Russian clubs and Ukraine’s Tavria Simferopol to discuss the plans.
He told the RIA Novosti agency: “We think it is realistic to hold the championship from the autumn of 2014 to the spring of 2015 but if the time to reach agreement drags on, then we plan to hold the championship from autumn 2015 to spring 2016.”
The Russian and Ukraine federations both greeted the original suggestion with caution.
Miller said: “Of course the approval of UEFA is required, and we will definitely do that. 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 Unified Championship is created, this requirement will be fully conformed to.”
Former Russia coach Valery Gazzaev said last week the system would consist of two divisions of 18 teams, resulting in a merger of the Russian and Ukrainian leagues before further expansion.
Miller aded: “Since the initiation of a championship like this is a complicated diplomatic solution, we have decided to initiate the championship with Ukraine.
“In the future, if everything works out for us, we will be able to co-opt clubs from the other countries in the post-Soviet space, which could take part in the Unified Championship. But that’s the next step.”
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