It was only in February this year that the proposed Russia-Ukraine joint league first reached the stage of formal meetings between clubs to discuss the viability but tonight a showcase tournament between top clubs from each country gets underway tonight. It is hoped the formal joint league will start this time next year when the top nine teams from each country will form the Unified First League.
Despite discouragement from Fifa, Uefa have insisted only that proper procedures are followed to give their ascent to the league. Gazprom, the Russian energy giant and Uefa Champions League sponsor, has underwritten the project with a commitment of 1 billion euros per annum.
As we know, in football, money talks, and the Russian and Ukrainian clubs, together with their national associations and Uefa, have been talked happy to make change possible.
In order to become competitive with their rivals in the west while meeting Uefa Financial Fair Play rules, Russian and Ukrainian clubs need to increase income, which the Unified First League would go a long way towards. Uefa president, Michel Platini, has long accepted that regionalisation was a viable way forward for domestic leagues, while former powers in smaller leagues have become disenfranchised from the game’s top table.
What does it mean for us?
Well, we don’t have a Gazprom, not yet, anyway, but once Gazprom’s financial and political muscle establishes the principle of regionalisation, that principle is available to all. Former Yugoslavia countries are already in talks, while Scandinavian countries have already had a few abortive attempts at (underfunded) regional cup competitions.
The British region.
Welsh football has managed to retain its national identity, provide an infrastructure for provincial and community clubs, while federating with the FA in England to allow their larger (sic) clubs to find their competitive level.
The model is already established for Scottish football, which has realised living with one (or two for that matter) massive club which completely invalidates their league competition as a ‘competition’ is no longer the best way to order their affairs.
Financial recklessness caused the collapse of one club a year ago while the recklessness of a Lithuanian bank has put another in jeopardy. A handful of other top-flight clubs now realise their financial commitments, not to mention sporting objectives, are no longer viable, with or without the crumbs from the table thrown in their direction when TV cameras and a few thousand fans arrive a few times per season.
Federate with England, just as the Welsh did. It will bring ‘competition’ back to our competitions, put thousands of everyone’s gates and provide access to viable commercial contracts.
Why are our leagues and Association not speaking to the English about this right now? The Football League in England is every bit as much a basket case as Scottish football right now, they also need to change the structural model and, unlike the equally lunatic (English) Premier League, appear to be self-aware in this respect.
Go talk to the Welsh FA, Cardiff City, Swansea, Wrexham or New Saints FC (!) and ask them what organising their game along the lines of the Scottish model would do to them.
Scottish football must federate or it will die. As such, if we stand on the precipice of crisis, let’s make it a good one. It’s the only thing which will get things moving.
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