UEFA sanction Russia over Crimea

FC Sevastopol played in the Ukrainian league system last season, until Crimea's annexation.

Story highlights

  • UEFA will not recognize matches involving Crimean teams
  • Three clubs played in Ukraine last season
  • Crimea annexed by Russia in March
  • Three teams had been entered into Russian competition

UEFA will not recognize any Russian soccer matches involving teams from the disputed region of Crimea.

The move was announced by European soccer's governing body after the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) appealed to UEFA and FIFA for their Russian counterparts to be sanctioned over "illegally and arbitrarily" taking three of its teams.

"The UEFA Emergency Panel has today decided that any football matches played by Crimean clubs in the context of competitions organized by the Russian Football Union (RFS) will not be recognized by UEFA until further notice," read a statement released Friday. "In order for football to take place within an organized sporting and legal framework, such participation has to comply with the terms set out in the UEFA Statutes."

Annexation

The status of the three Ukrainian clubs -- Tavriya Simferopol, FC Sevastopol and a lower league team from Yalta -- was thrown into doubt in March when Russia invaded and annexed the region of Crimea, which lies on a Black Sea peninsular in the south east of Ukraine.

SC Tavriya and FC Sevastopol both played in the Ukrainian Premier League last season and were allowed to continue until its conclusion. Their home games were hosted outside of Crimea due to security concerns.

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But when the season finished the three clubs were dissolved. Two were given new names -- TSK Simferopol, SKChF Sevastopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta -- and entered in to Russian competition by the Russian Football Union, sparking protests from Ukraine.

UEFA's statutes does outlaw "combinations and alliances" of clubs from different associations but FIFA would only allow any such move if both the Russians and Ukrainians agreed to it.

"Our strong position is that Ukrainian teams have to be in Ukrainian competition and there is no right for them to take part in Russia," said Anatoliy Konkov, a former USSR national team who is now the president of the FFU, in an interview with the New York Times.

"The clubs are still Ukrainian. Nobody gave them to Russia," he added before explaining that the FFU had given no such permission for the move to take place."

Fall out

The geopolitical fall out from both the conflict in Ukraine and the MH17 plane disaster had already begun to engulf soccer.

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Several politicians, including British deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, had called on Russia to be stripped of the right to host the 2018 World Cup finals over its alleged role in supplying and arming the Russian speaking insurgents currently fighting government forces in the east of Ukraine.

Crimea was also raised when FIFA president Sepp Blatter met Russian president Vladimir Putin last weekend to discuss preparations for the 2018 finals.

"FIFA President Blatter also reiterated that FIFA will handle the ongoing matter concerning Crimean football clubs based on the relevant processes that should be overseen by the respective confederation (UEFA) in the first instance," FIFA said in a statement.

Russian fears

Leading figures in Russian soccer had allegedly voiced fears that the annexation of Crimea's teams could lead to just such a political fallout.

Last week Russian investigative magazine Novaya Gazeta published a transcript of a leaked recording from a meeting between top Russian soccer executives.

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The transcript of the meeting, which took place in July and lead to the vote which admitted the three Crimean teams into the Russian third division, appears to show discussions revealing how the vote may impact on Russian clubs playing in the UEFA Champions League.

Others raise fears that the vote might even harm Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup finals.

"I have a club to support, " Evgeny Giner, the president of CSKA Moscow, is alleged to have said. "And tomorrow they'll pull us from 2018."

Forced hand

The objections of the Ukrainian federation has forced UEFA to make the temporary sanction against Russia whilst working out what to do next. In the statement UEFA, rather hopefully, believes the two sides can come to an agreement on the status of Crimea's soccer clubs.

"The UEFA Emergency Panel has also requested that the UEFA administration, together with FIFA, facilitate discussions with the representatives of the RFS and the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) in order to find a common solution to this situation," concluded UEFA's statement.

But any agreement would likely be seen as a huge PR coup for Russia's annexation of Crimea, and appear highly unlikely.

Both the Football Federation of Ukraine and the Russian Football Union have not replied to a request for comment by the time of publication.

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