MOSCOW: Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and former national team coach Valery Gazzayev have traded insults over the controversial proposal to develop a unified football league for Russia and Ukraine – an effective partial revival of the old Soviet Supreme League.
Gazzayev is one of the leading figures behind the plan, while Mutko, a former head of the Russian Football Union and a member of the FIFA executive committee, is highly critical.
Mutko has said Gazzaev should focus on his relegation-threatened Russian Premier League club Alania Vladikavkaz, for whom he serves as manager and president.
“It’s not worth discussing things with windbags,” Mutko said when asked about Gazzayev’s plans. “He should get on with training Alania; they’re dropping down into the trash.”
Speaking to RIA Novosti, Gazzayev returned fire stating that Mutko lacked the right to make “inconsiderate, low-class comments” about himself, Alania or the new league’s organising committee.
He said: “I, for example, don’t advise Mutko how to direct the efforts in preparation for the (2014 Winter) Olympics and other competitions. I prefer to work and benefit major football. In sport and in life everyone should do their own thing.
“I think that, having given my whole life to football in our country, I’m doing the right thing, and I wish that many people in sport and football did their work just as well, developed the industry and didn’t get involved in empty conversations.”
The new league’s stakeholders staged their latest meeting on the proposal last week with Gazprom chairman Alexey Miller stating his confidence that it will launch next autumn with the full backing of UEFA. The league’s proponents claim it will drive enhanced sponsorship and television revenues, allowing teams to better meet UEFA’s financial fair play rules.
Miller said the proposed league would see 80 clubs from Russia and Ukraine combined into a four-division structure, with future expansion into other post-Soviet countries. The tournament would have an annual budget of $1bn with $800m spent on the 18-club top division.
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