Gazprom chairman Alexey Miller has stated his confidence that the proposed Unified Football League (UFL) will launch next autumn with the full backing of UEFA.
The UFL would comprise leading clubs from Russia and other post-Soviet states with its proponents claiming the new league would drive enhanced sponsorship and television revenues, allowing teams to better meet UEFA’s financial fair play rules. State energy firm Gazprom owns Russian Premier League champion Zenit St. Petersburg and plays a significant role in European football through its major sponsorship of UEFA, along with other commercial deals. It is a major force in the UFL plans and Miller on Monday met with 14 Russian top-flight clubs and one Ukrainian side, former national champion Tavria Simferopol, to discuss the plans. “We think it is realistic to hold the championship from the autumn of 2014 to the spring of 2015,” said Miller, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. “But if the time to reach agreement drags on, then we plan to hold the championship from autumn 2015 to spring 2016.”
Both the Ukrainian Football Federation (UFF) and Russian Football Union (RFU) have previously voiced their opposition to the plan, while FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he is opposed to the idea of “supranational leagues”, adding the concept “goes against the principle of solidarity of FIFA.” However, 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 is part of the project and said last week it would consist of two divisions of 18 teams, resulting in a merger of the Russian and Ukrainian leagues before further expansion. “Since the initiation of a championship like this is a complicated diplomatic solution, we have decided to initiate the championship with Ukraine,” added Miller. “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.” UFL stakeholders will reportedly stage a meeting with Ukrainian clubs at a later date.