9 December 2012, 16:20

CIS Football Cup initiative

CIS Football Cup initiative

The European football’s governing body, UEFA, will look into a proposal by Russian football clubs to organize supranational championships for the Commonwealth of Independent States. Experts say that the idea of broadening national football horizons to the entire CIS is wonderful, though a bit nostalgic, but fear that it may prove unrealistic.

The proposal was aired by Yevgeny Giner, top manager of the CSKA Moscow club, and Alexei Miller, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom, the main sponsor of St. Petersburg’s Zenit, quite some time ago. But despite approving nods from national football functionaries, few had taken it seriously until UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, promised to consider the matter. UEFA has been experimenting with similar supranational formats in Scandinavia and the Baltics, and most recently, attempts have been made to unite the Women’s Football Leagues of Belgium and the Netherlands. Even if UEFA approves the future CIS Cup, it will put forth certain terms, says football observer Alexander Vladykin.

"Talk on supranational championships has finally begun. Earlier, most observers thought that UEFA would let all countries hold such tournaments instead of national championships. But UEFA has made its position precisely clear: every country must have its national championships. In addition, it may organize supranational tournaments such as the CIS Cup or others. Then, the structure of subordination, in which national championships are controlled by national football unions, leagues and UEFA as the top of that pyramid, will be preserved."

Both clubs and fans have welcomed the initiative. Supranational tournaments are widely seen as commercially more profitable. The geography and audience will expand. Each member state will contribute to the advertising. And to top it all, the football itself will become more interesting, more exciting, as during republican championships in the former USSR. Sports commentator Valery Bliznetsov is skeptical:

"Reviving it 20 years after the split of the USSR will be unrealistic. If it had been done in 1991 right away, then it would have been possible. But today, every country has its own championships and many teams participate in European competitions.

Another problem is that clubs from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan or Kazakhstan, or even Belarus, will be unable to compete on a par with Russian or Ukrainian clubs. Also, if the new tournament is modeled on the Europa League or Champions’ League, the prospect of having to choose between the CIS or European championships will hardly appeal to Russian and Ukrainian clubs.

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