MOSCOW: Russian football has retreated from its politically-inspired inclusion of clubs from annexed Crimea into its league system writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The attempt by the Russian league to ‘import’ three clubs – TSK Simferopol, SKChF Sevastopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta – into its league and cup system after the Russian military takeover of the region prompted protests from the Ukraine football federation.

World and European federations FIFA and UEFA warned subsequently that the action breached statutes on cross-border club switches.

Last month UEFA’s executive committee, of which Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is a member, prohibited the Russian league from including Crimean clubs in its competitions.

The executive committee of the Russian Football Union has decided to drop the club-import idea and is proposing, instead, to help organise an independent championship solely within Crimea.

Olga Smorodskaya, the deputy chair of Rosbank who is president of Lokomotive Moscow, confirmed the decision.

She said: “We had a normal working meeting. We approved the results of the first stage of the competition in all leagues and make a number of refinements to regulations about fan misbehaviour. For example, abusive chanting can now lead to a team having a result overturned.

“As for the Crimean clubs, they have been excluded from the second division. They must organise themselves in future.”

The new Crimea reversal was welcomed by Alexander Krasilnikov, president of SKCF Sevastopol one of the clubs concerned.

He said: “We must not stop playing football in Crimea and, if all the promises from the league of sponsorship are met, then in the spring we will start a new championship.

“We are enlisting the help of Vitaly Mutko – as a member of the executive committee of FIFA – to help us create a full-fledged tournament. We expect that it will feature eight clubs.

“What is important is that it can feature players not only from the Crimea but also from other countries. It could make a big contribution to the development of football in Crimea.”

Krasilnikov may be over-optimistic about foreign players. With the status of Crimea in dispute – in both football and political terms – foreign players may risk disciplinary action if they should then seek to FIFA and UEFA jurisdiction.