Switch Crimean clubs to Russia - Fifa says No

GENEVA: World football's governing body FIFA on Wednesday said it had received no request to shift Crimean clubs from the Ukrainian to the Russian league, despite Moscow's annexation of the Ukrainian province. 

"FIFA has not received any request for any change of the Crimean clubs to the Russian League," a FIFA spokesman told AFP. 

Moscow took over Crimea last month after a referendum there organised by pro-Kremlin separatists which has been condemned by the international community. 

The Russian Football Union (RFU) has announced that it has already started the process of incorporating the Crimean region football federation and the local clubs into Russia's league system. 

The issue of the flag under which Crimea's sides will play is sharply political, and they and the Russian league would face the risk of punishment by FIFA and European governing body UEFA if they jump ship unilaterally. 

If either governing body were to give a green light for such a move, it would also be highly sensitive for organisations whose statutes require them to stay out of politics, given that the Kremlin's territorial takeover has not been recognised internationally. 

With Russia hit by Western sanctions over its move, Moscow's opponents have already begun raising the spectre of a boycott when it hosts the 2018 World Cup. 

Crimea is home to two Ukrainian Premier League clubs, FC Sevastopol and Tavria Simferopol, both of whom have struggled this season. 

Their fate was debated at a meeting of FIFA's executive committee last month, just days after the Russian annexation. 

"The two professional teams that are part of the Ukrainian professional league will end the season with the other teams in Ukraine," FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said at the time. 

"It is an agreement that has been made by all the participating parties and endorsed by UEFA and FIFA," he told reporters. 

But with Moscow making every effort to harmonise every aspect of life in Crimea -- even the clocks -- with that in the rest of Russia, the issue appears far from settled for next season. 

Sevastopol's owner has expressed his desire to stay in the Ukrainian league, possibly by moving the club to a southern Ukrainian city, but Simferopol have indicated that the do not need anyone's permission to jump ship. 

Ukraine's Football Federation has said that Crimean clubs have the right to decide their own allegiance, provided the rules are followed.