Soccer-Russia ready to take in Crimean clubs

By Igor Nitsak

KIEV, June 5 (Reuters) - Crimea-based soccer clubs have changed their names in a bid to join the Russian lower divisions following the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula by Russia this year.

PFC Sevastopol and Tavriya, former members of the Ukrainian top division, changed their names to FC BSF and Skif respectively.

Along with three lower-league clubs they are expected to get permission to enter competitions on the territory of the Russian Federation at a special session of the Russian football union scheduled for June 7.

"We have established a new legal entity named FC BSF (Football club of the Black Sea Fleet) that is ready to play in Russia," club president Alexandr Krasilnikov was quoted as saying by Russian paper Sport-Express.

"We do not refer to the former structure of PFC Sevastopol. This is a new club with the Russian founder. We have supplied all the documents not as the Ukrainian but as the Russian team. We will be based in Sevastopol like before as it is the Russian territory."

Tavriya, the first champions of the independent Ukraine after the Soviet Union broke up 23 years ago, are prepared to start a new season in the Russian championship, almost certainly in a lower league.

Crimea-based clubs are trying to find loopholes to get round FIFA regulations which say clubs from certain countries are forbidden to take part in any competitions on the territory of another state without the permission of both countries' football associations, FIFA and UEFA.

The football federation of Ukraine has made no comment but its former president and current UEFA vice-president Hryhoriy Surkis has criticised all parties involved.

"As a vice-president of UEFA and an honorary president of FFU, I am bewildered by what authority the Russian football union considers voting on such matters without an official statement from FIFA, UEFA and FFU," he said.

"There is basis to assert that Crimea is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Football Federation of Ukraine."

Vitaliy Mutko, the Minister of Sport for the Russian Federation, insists the process is well-organised and meets the requirements of Russian legislation.

"As I know, there are six professional football clubs created in Crimea," he said.

"Those clubs are preparing for licensing. Some may start in the second league, other will go to inter-regional divisions. Clubs that were formed and have complied with Ukrainian legislation are the subject of interest for us." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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