MOSCOW, May 14 (Reuters) - After a wretched season littered with racist incidents and fines, the president of Torpedo Moscow, whose cash-strapped club is on the verge of relegation, has written it all off as a series of isolated episodes and misunderstandings.
Despite being bottom of the Russian Premier League, Torpedo have been making headlines this season having been punished by the Russian Football Union (RFS) on a number of a occasions due to their supporters’ racist behaviour.
In September, Torpedo fans were found guilty of racially abusing Dynamo Moscow’s Christopher Samba, while a number of black players from Rostov were on the receiving end two months later.
Zenit’s Brazilian forward Hulk was also targeted during a match in March and during an away game against Arsenal Tula last month, Torpedo fans unveiled a banner with a Nazi symbol.
The club was fined a total of one million roubles ($20,000) for all four incidents and were forced to play a number of home matches behind closed doors.
“We have had a misunderstanding with a group of people, who call themselves Torpedo supporters,” club president Alexander Tukmanov told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“We asked them on a number of occasions if they wanted to attend a meeting with us to discuss the problems. But they believe that the team and the directors exist separately.”
They are not the only club in Russia to have been found guilty of racism offences. The RFS have punished Spartak Moscow, while European governing body UEFA have disciplined CSKA Moscow.
“I do not think that racism is a massive occurrence in our football. I would call these isolated incidents,” said Tukmanov, who was general director of the RFS from 1998 until 2005.
“I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that in the near future the situation will change for the better, but we are working towards this.”
With three matches of the season remaining, Torpedo, three times champions in the 1960s and 70s, are bottom of the table.
Their players have not been paid for around five months, according to media reports.
“Before the start of the season, we did not think that we would get into financial difficulty,” Tukmanov said.
“The automobile factory ZIL was responsible for financing us. Today, ZIL have practically stopped producing cars.”
Torpedo do not have their own stadium or their own training ground.
“Where we will play next season depends on whether we are able to maintain our position among the elite,” Tukmanov said.
“I don’t even want to think about being relegated to the first division.” ($1 = 50.0120 roubles) (Editing by Toby Davis/Mitch Phillips)