The final steps have been taken to bring the Russian Premier League calendar into line with the rest of Europe. From 2012 onwards, the season will kick off in the autumn, with the final matches taking place in late spring.
Until now, November has been the month when Russian Premier League champions are crowned.
That will not be the case this year. Now, fans will have to wait until May 2012 to see the next winner confirmed, as the country’s footballing calendar undergoes a radical overhaul to put it in synch with the rest of Europe.
The old format often put Russian clubs competing in Europe at a disadvantage as they were reaching the latter stages of the Champions League or the Europa League before their own season had even started.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Continent were already halfway through their campaigns and were therefore at an advantage.
“It will help us immensely moving to the new calendar. Our clubs found it difficult previously to compete with the top clubs around Europe in the latter stages of the European competitions. However, things should now be a lot easier for us, as we will be put on a level playing field,” Sergey Pryadkin, Russian Premier League president, said.
The clubs will carry on playing until the end of the current championship in mid-November, when every team will have played 30 games.
However, there will then be a split, with two games taking place in November and the remaining 12 from March 2012.
The Top 8 would play each other home and away and fight it out to see who is, eventually, crowned champion and who qualifies for Europe – which will be decided by May 2012.
However, at the other end of the table, the clubs will play the same tournament, with two teams relegated to the first division, when the season eventually finishes.
“It will be really hard for the clubs at the start, as we will have to play a lot of league games, as well as trying to fit in Euro competitions as well. But in the end it will be worth it, as we will be on a similar calendar to those clubs playing in the majority of Europe,” Roman Babaev, CSKA Moscow Director-General, stressed.
There have been concerns about the new calendar putting the clubs at a disadvantage, given the unpredictability of Russia’s weather.
However, these fears have proved to be unfounded, as the new championship will cover pretty much the same dates that are currently used.
And on the contrary, by the autumn of 2012, Russia will join the rest of Europe in playing a season that will finish in May.