Zenit mulls leaving top league in Russia

Zenit mulls leaving top league in Russia

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Zenit mulls leaving top league in Russia

Zenit St Petersburg’s Hubocan (2R) and Lombaerts (L) challenge Malaga’s Diego Buonanotte while goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev makes a save. REUTERS photo

Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg could break away from the Russian championship and form a new league with other teams from the ex-Soviet Union, the chief of its owner and main sponsor Gazprom has said.

Zenit is locked in a dispute with the Russian Football Union after being fined and told to play their next two domestic league matches behind closed doors after crowd trouble in last week’s game with Dynamo Moscow.

Another event

“The answer is positive, maybe we will play in another championship,” Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said in comments posted on Zenit’s website this weekend.

“Very, very many people think we could play a CIS football championship and I am also a strong supporter of this idea,” said Miller, referring to the Commonwealth of Independent States post-Soviet group. “If the time comes to create a new championship then we will act and take steps only with those people who support the idea.”

Ban on supporters

Zenit is furious with the football authorities for the severity of the punishment for an incident which it insists was not caused by true fans of the club and means its clash tonight with league leader CSKA will be behind closed doors. Many Russian football fans are still nostalgic for the days of the Soviet League when the best Russian squads routinely locked horns with teams from across the USSR, notably top Ukrainian sides like Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk.