- © RIA Novosti. Said Tsarnaev
© RIA Novosti. Said Tsarnaev
MOSCOW, July 10 (R-Sport) - The much-vaunted Unified Championship uniting the Russian and Ukrainian football leagues will appear no earlier than the 2015-16 season, the man charged with making it work said Wednesday.
The proposed merger would see 80 clubs from the ex-Soviet neighbors combined into a four-division structure, with future expansion into other CIS countries.
But Valery Gazzaev, the president of second-tier side Alania Vladikavkaz and the director of the championship's organizing committee, said reports that it might kick off in the 2014-15 season were exaggerated.
"It will probably be 2015-16, because it's impossible to do it faster," he said in televised comments. "The documents of (the new league's) statutes that we're preparing will be ready only by then."
The idea to reassemble the old Soviet Top League has been floated for years but it gathered serious steam in November, when Zenit St. Petersburg were punished by the Russian FA for fan hooliganism that led to a league game being called off.
The CEO of Zenit's owner Gazprom, the world's largest gas company, threatened to pull the team out of the Russian championship in protest at the automatic three points surrendered to Dynamo Moscow.
"Very, very many people think that we could play in a CIS championship, and I am also a firm supporter of this idea," Miller said in November.
Since then, the idea has been reduced to a merger of the Russian and Ukrainian leagues rather than a fully-blown CIS league.
It has found powerful support within the Kremlin, but it must equally overcome stubborn resistance from FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who called the plans "impossible," and Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who says Russian money should remain in Russian football, to come to fruition.