Soccer-Platini opposes plans for resurrection of Soviet league

SOFIA, March 28 Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:13pm GMT

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SOFIA, March 28 (Reuters) - European soccer boss Michel Platini is opposed to the resurrection of the old Soviet league, including elite Russian and Ukrainian teams.

"It's a very difficult issue but I'm not very much in favour of it," Platini told a news conference on Thursday after UEFA's executive committee meeting in Sofia.

In December, several top Russian clubs including champions Zenit St Petersburg, big spenders Anzhi Makhachkala and CSKA Moscow unveiled a plan to break away from Russia's top flight and start a multi-national league of up to 16 teams next year.

The plan called for six or seven elite Russian clubs such as Zenit, Anzhi, CSKA and their Moscow rivals Spartak, Dynamo and Lokomotiv to join four or five top Ukrainian teams including Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev, plus one or two from Belarus, Armenia or Azerbaijan to make up the new CIS league.

"Certain leagues are in deep financial difficulties and it's a matter of survival for them," said Platini. "They want to develop their football and have a better chance to sell their commercial rights.

"But that is not the case with Russia," the 57-year-old Frenchman added. "Russia is very strong."

The proposed merger is a direct response to Europe's top leagues growing in strength and the Russians remain convinced that unification is the only way they can compete.

Supporters of the new league, including companies like Gazprom, say it would drive enhanced sponsorship and television revenues, allowing teams to better meet UEFA's financial fair play rules.

European soccer's governing body has allowed Belgium and Netherlands to hold a combined women's championship known as the BeNe-League on an experimental basis this season.

"We made a test in Belgium and Netherlands with a women's league and we have to wait for one or two years to see how it works and then a decision will be taken by the executive committee," Platini said.

A similar plan was announced by clubs from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Hungary and Bulgaria at a meeting in Sofia in 2011, but progress has fizzled out as they wait for approval from UEFA.

Plans for a Czech-Slovak league also appear to have hit the buffers. (Editing by Mark Meadows)

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