Unrest could force champions Shakhtar to move

Shaktar v Braga (AP Photo)
Shaktar v Braga (AP Photo)

Cape Town - Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk might have to find a new home if deadly fighting in the separatist east continues, the club's general manager warned.

"We (Shakhtar) will stay in the Ukrainian league under any conditions," Sergei Palkin was quoted as saying by www.vesti.ua information site.

"But we may chose another city for training and staging our home matches if the situation in Donetsk remains tense or deteriorates.

"We haven't studied any concrete proposals yet as we still have some time before the start of the new season.

"We hope that the situation will change for the better in the near future."

Pro-Russian separatists declared a People's Republic of Donetsk in the industrial city of east Ukraine in early April after seizing its main administrative building.

In a referendum on 11 May, the people of Donetsk apparently voted overwhelmingly to split from Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's interior minister urged civilians across parts of the restive Donetsk region to stay indoors as fighting escalated.

Shakhtar won their ninth league title last month, finishing six points ahead of Dipro Dnipropetrovsk.

Palkin is anticipating a reduced league next season with some financially-strapped clubs dropping off the topflight.

"Last season's results clearly showed that some of the league's clubs were experiencing difficulties in bearing the expenses related to their participation in the Premier League," Palkin said.

"The example of Arsenal Kiev, forced to disband because of financial reasons, confirmed that.

"The league should never again be affected even by a single team who find it hard to bear the financial burden, being forced to fall out of the race early."

Last season all Arsenal Kiev's results were cancelled after the team was disbanded midway through the season.

Some other Ukrainian Premier League clubs - Metalist Kharkiv and Uzhgorod - also struggled financially last season.

"We need to reduce the top flight to 12 teams.

"The reduction will make the Premier League tournament stronger and more attractive. Besides, the new format of the championship will be more lucrative for the participating teams."

"I think at the first stage, it should be a round robin tournament within two (home and away) rounds, then, two more legs will be held within the first and second groups of six teams each.

"The funding remains a key issue for all the league's teams, and in case just 12 of them remain in the top flight - the situation will gradually improve, I believe."

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