Russian football stands little chance of progressing as three-quarters of Premier League teams are dependent on state funding, according to the head of Vladimir Putin’s presidential administration.
The comments from Putin aide Sergei Ivanov, a former member of the Russian Football Union’s (RFU) executive committee, come as the country’s leading clubs step up their claim to form a ‘Unified Football League’ (UFL) in a bid to drive additional revenues into the domestic game. Premier League champion Zenit St. Petersburg is a major force in the European market and spent Eur80 million in September to acquire Hulk and Alex Witsel from FC Porto. However, Zenit is owned by state gas company Gazprom, while other leading clubs under state control include Lokomotiv Moscow, owned by the state railways, and Rubin Kazan, the property of the Tatarstan regional government. “I am extremely pessimistic about the development of domestic professional football,” Ivanov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “Of 16 Premier League clubs here, only four are private. What sort of development can we talk about?”
Ivanov said one of the main reasons for the stagnation of Russian football was the lack of a significant domestic TV rights market. “In the Russian Federation, not a single sport, including football, is able to earn from TV broadcasts in the way it should be in the entire civilised world,” he said. “We don’t have a market any more, it didn’t work out. There’s dependency that has run rampant.”
Plans for a so-called UFL involving teams from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states have gathered pace in recent months. Russia’s leading clubs staged a meeting in Moscow last month, with CSKA Moscow president Evgeny Giner stating that the new league is needed to increase revenues in a bid to allow clubs to meet UEFA’s financial fair play rules. Zenit, Anzhi Makhachkala and the Russian Premier League also back the plans and Giner claimed UEFA “has said it will allow the unification of championships,” adding he expected European football’s governing body to allow the countries involved to keep their current quotas of European places. A UFL source told Soccerex Business Daily last week that organisers expect UEFA’s verdict on the proposal “very soon”. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Sunday that he was opposed to the idea of “supranational leagues”, adding the concept “goes against the principle of solidarity of FIFA.”