Mutko expects top Crimean clubs to play in Russia

Mon Mar 24, 2014 3:38pm EDT
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By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is confident that FIFA has cleared the way for Crimea's top two soccer clubs to join the Russian league this year.

The status of Tavriya Simferopol and FC Sevastopol became uncertain after Russia seized the peninsula from Ukraine in a move condemned by the international community.

Ukraine's football federation has said the two clubs will complete its league season in May and Mutko, returning from a meeting of FIFA's Executive Committee of which he is a member, believes a transfer would then be possible.

"This topic was discussed under an agenda item about sports and political matters at the Exco meeting (and) I have been informed that it is a reality - there are two new clubs in Russia. Yes, they will work within the sporting regulations of the country," he told Russian media on Monday.

"We are interested in friendly relations with Ukraine and are not going to destroy the integrity of its championship. The season ends in May and we will then return to these questions and discuss what the formula would be. This is a matter now for the Russian federation and its Premier League."

World soccer's governing body FIFA was not available for comment.

Rustam Temirgaliev, the first deputy prime minister of Crimea, also wants the transfer and had a special mention for Tavriya - winner of Ukraine's first Premier League title in 1992.

"With Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko I have discussed the possibility of a participatory transition of Tavriya Simferopol to the Russian Premier League this summer," he said.   Continued...

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko attends a news conference in Moscow September 30, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov