UEFA to set up new soccer league in Crimea
Mar. 06, 2015
MOSCOW (AP) — UEFA's top official responsible for Crimea says the governing body of European soccer plans to set up a league in the disputed territory.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, but UEFA ruled in December that Crimean clubs could not take part in the Russian league, saying it would administer the peninsula as a "special zone."
"The UEFA executive committee has approved the idea of creating a football league in Crimea," said Frantisek Laurinec, who led a delegation to the region Thursday, in comments provided by UEFA.
Laurinec said it was too early to set a "precise timeframe" for the creation of the new league and that "any concrete decisions" would be discussed later.
"The objective of our visit to Crimea was to familiarize ourselves with the football infrastructure in the region, and to evaluate the situation," he said. "We need to understand the current situation of Crimean football, as well as the structure yet to be established, and to see how UEFA can support football development in the region."
Laurinec, a former head of the Slovakian soccer association, did not specify when UEFA had decided to create the league. UEFA did not respond to a request for clarification.
The head of one of two regional soccer federations in Crimea, Alexander Krasilnikov, was quoted by Russian media as saying the new league could start play in August if UEFA backed plans drawn up by local clubs. In January, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he expected UEFA to finance any new league created in Crimea.
After Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year, its two existing Ukrainian Premier League clubs were shut down and three new teams created to play in the Russian leagues.
After the Ukrainian Football Federation protested, UEFA banned Crimean clubs from playing in the Russian league system.