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“The Rules of the Game”: The Lack of Football Referendum in Crimea

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“The Rules of the Game”: The Lack of Football Referendum in Crimea
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Crisis in UkraineOn March 16th, exactly a year ago, the referendum for independence from Ukraine in the Crimean Peninsula was held. The main reason for such a move was the coup d’état, which lead to change in power in Kyiv and the growing wave of nationalism. The dominantly Russian speaking citizens voted with a majority of over 90% to proclaim an independent Crimean republic and join the Russian Federation. The referendum however, was not recognized by the international community which had its implications even on the football played on the coast of the Black Sea.

tavria sevastopolCrimea has been under the control of many different nations throughout its millennial history. The peninsula has been colonized by the Ancient Greeks, later became a province of the Roman and Byzantines Empires, while the first Bulgarian state was also founded there in the 7th century. Later it was under the power of the Ottoman sultan, before becoming a part of the Russian Empire in 1783. After the revolution of 1917, Crimea remained in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, before Nikita Khrushchev signed a decree from 1954 giving up the peninsula to the Ukrainian Socialist republic.

In the province of just over two million inhabitants, there were three professional football clubs competing in the tiers of the Ukrainian federation. Those were TSK Simferopol, SC Tavriya, FC Sevastopol and Zhemchuzina from Yalta – the place where Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill decided in 1943 the political future of the world. All three clubs were quickly registered in the Russian football federation, starting in the third division and even participating in the first rounds of the Russian cup.

russiaHowever, after an official complaint from Anatoly Konkov – the President of the Ukrainian federation, last December UEFA banned the Crimean clubs from playing in Russia. There was strong evidence for the decision being affected by Hryhoriy Surkis – the former governor of Ukrainian football and current Vice-President of UEFA. His brother Ihor Surkis on the other hand, is the chairman of Dynamo Kyiv. Left without legal permission, the clubs from the peninsula had to cease their sporting activity. Now ahead of them lies the long battle for the recognition of their rights by the European governors, while the same applies for every institution of new Crimea.