ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has dismissed any idea of several wealthy Russian clubs creating a new league with top teams from the former Soviet states, saying any such move would be against the principles of the world governing body.
“It’s impossible,” Blatter told reporters in St Petersburg on Sunday after attending the opening of the CIS Cup, an annual competition involving teams from the former Soviet Union.
“It goes against the principles of FIFA, therefore FIFA would never support such idea.”
Last month, several top Russian clubs, including champions Zenit St Petersburg, big spenders Anzhi Makhachkala and CSKA Moscow, unhappy with the way the domestic game is run, unveiled a plan to break away from Russia’s top flight and start a new multi-national league of up to 16 teams as early as 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, namely Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev, then add one or two from Belarus, Armenia or Azerbaijan to make up the new CIS league.
“We all know how strong the old Soviet league was. It was one of the strongest in Europe,” CSKA president Yevgeny Giner, one of the main proponents of the CIS league, said last month.
“If all goes the way we have planned, the new league would be just as strong. The attendances would increase several times and clubs could make much more money from television.”
However, critics say the creation of the new league would lead to a direct confrontation with FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA, who prohibit teams to participate in domestic competitions organised by other national football associations.
New Russian soccer chief Nikolai Tolstykh, sitting next to Blatter, assured the FIFA head that his country would follow the guidelines of the world’s governing body.
“We’ve not received any details on how this new league plan to operate, but in any case, we would never go against the wishes of FIFA,” said Tolstykh, who has vowed to crack down on corruption and match-fixing since being elected president of the Russian FA last September.
Writing by Gennady Fyodorov; Editing by John Mehaffey