Club Owners Back Merger Of Top Divisions Of Russian, Ukrainian Football Leagues
Plans to merge the top divisions of the Russian and Ukrainian football leagues "have won further support from club owners keen to replicate the commercial success of the English Premier League and Europe-wide Champions League," according to Kavanagh, Chazan & Olearchyk of the FINANCIAL TIMES. A blueprint for a regional super league across the post-soviet Commonwealth of Independent States "resurfaced before Christmas backed by an offer of $5B in potential sponsorship from Gazprom." Although initially opposed by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, UEFA "has so far left the door open to a reconfiguration of league systems across the two countries." Top Russian clubs including CSKA Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg and Anzhi Makhachkala "have already given their backing for negotiations to create a 'super league.'" Though more reticent to give their full support for abandoning an independent league, Ukrainian club owners said that "some kind of merger could make commercial sense." Shakhtar Donetsk, owned by Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov, said that "the merger plan would need to be seen to benefit Ukrainian football in general rather than just top club owners" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/24).