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Russian football’s legionnaires quota to remain unchanged next season — sports minister

June 19, 2015, 15:09 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, is expected to pass in its final reading on Friday a bill regulating a limit of foreign athletes allowed competing in Russian team sports

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Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

© ITAR-TASS/Sergey Fadeichev

MOSCOW, June 19. /TASS/. Clubs of the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL) will employ in the next season the same formula regulating the number of foreign players allowed to compete for the national clubs, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Friday.

The Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, is expected to pass in its final reading on Friday a bill regulating a limit of foreign athletes allowed competing in Russian team sports.

"Everyone should accept the fact that the new legislature limiting the foreign workforce in sports will be adopted and be functional," Mutko said in an interview with TASS.

The bill envisages granting the Russian Sports Ministry the right of establishing and coordinating the limit of foreign athletes allowed to compete in Russia, who are also referred to as ‘legionnaires.’ Each sport would have its own limit for attracting legionnaires, according to the bill.

The draft law is also stipulates obligatory criteria for foreign players, including their athletic qualification, age, period of permanent stay in Russia as well as athlete’s period of training in Russia and results achieved while competing for Russian sports clubs.

The issue of legionnaires in Russian sports is in particular attention regarding the football in Russia, which is currently preparing to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

"Speaking about the football, it is highly possible that we would not have enough time to embed the new legislature by the start of the new season, therefore the RFPL clubs will play in line with the current limit [7+4] and not in line with the one approved by the [RFU] Executive Committee [10+15]."

The RFPL currently exploits the ‘7+4’ formula, which means that no more than seven foreign players can be simultaneously playing on the field during the league’s matches. Last December the Executive Committee of the Russian Football Union (RFU) approved a limit for foreign players allowed to be submitted by football clubs before each playing season at a formula of 10 foreigners plus 15 Russian players (10+15).

"We should ignore statements that the new limit [on foreign footballers] will drop the level of competitiveness," the Russian sports minister said. "This is the position of the government and it is not the subject for discussions. This is the personal assignment from the country’s president and we will complete it."

RFU’s decision on the 10+15 formula of foreign players in the national football drew criticism not only from Mutko, but as well as from Igor Ananskikh, the head of the State Duma’s Committee for Physical Culture and Sport. They both said the new formula was excessive and undermined the development of football in Russia.

"The adopted limit leads to commercialization of certain football clubs, but contradicts interests of the national sports development," Ananskikh said earlier in the year. "The issue of legionnaires is particularly important in the run up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Russia."

The RFU Executive Committee also decided at its session in December to impose a purposeful levy on legionnaires playing for the clubs of the RFPL and the National Football League (NFL) starting with the 2015/2016 season.

The levy is expected to equal 500,000 rubles ($7,500) per legionnaire in the RFPL and 250,000 rubles ($3,750) in the NFL. The levies are planned to be channeled into the development of youth and mass football in Russia.

Sports Minister Mutko criticized this decision of the country’s governing body of football as well, saying it was ‘cynical.’

"I am a staunch opponent of all kinds of extortions in regard to clubs," Mutko said in February commenting on the RFU’s levy initiative. "The RFU has enough opportunities for attracting financial resources. Clubs must be provided with assistance and not extortions."

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