Minister criticizes ex-Soviet league plan

Minister criticizes ex-Soviet league plan

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko has attacked a proposal to create a post-Soviet football league by grouping together the best teams of the former USSR.

The ambitious plan was mooted this month by Alexei Miller, the chief of Gazprom, owner and main sponsor of reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg, and has picked up support from top clubs. Anzhi Makhachkala, another similarly wealthy Russian club boasting Cameroon star Samuel Eto’o, is also championing the idea.

Muktko however criticized the idea of the revival of the Soviet-type CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) league saying that various “ill-conceived plans” were preventing the Russian public from focusing on the true problems of football in the country.

“My personal attitude to the CIS championships is completely clear,” Mutko told the Sport Express daily in an interview yesterday.

“I’m Russian sports minister and my priority is the development of sports and physical culture in our country, nowhere else.

‘No motivation’

“I don’t see any motivation in the CIS championship.

“The Russian league is among Europe’s top 10 championships and our clubs have fair chances to battle into the Champions League to face Europe’s top sides there.”

Mutko said that the creation of the cross-border league would likely ruin the existing structure of the Russian football championship, adding that the order of determination of Russia’s participants in the UEFA Champions’ and Europa leagues in the suggested project was completely unclear.

“Dozens of poorly thought-out projects have appeared in recent times,” Mutko said. “But they are all just drawing our attention away from the true problems. Russian football loses sponsors, while attendance at domestic league matches has decreased a great deal in recent years.

“The fans behavior has also became a serious problem, while clubs experience serious troubles in developing young footballers.”