Russian Premier League club FC Ufa has gone to extraordinary lengths to motivate its players ahead of a critical match against Dynamo Moscow in league play.
The club announced it will not only refund all tickets should the team lose on Sunday, but they will also extend free tickets to the next match for those who attended Sunday’s game.
Ufa sits 14th in the 16-team table, just one point above 15th-placed Anzhi Makhachkala and one back of 13th-placed Krylya Sovetov. In the 16-team league, the bottom two teams are automatically relegated and the teams in places 13 and 14 are sent to a four-team relegation playoff that includes the two from the first tier and also two teams vying for promotion from the second tier.
The game is massive given that Dynamo Moscow sits in 12th, the final guaranteed safe position in the table. They hold 20 points through 17 matches so far, three points above the precarious relegation playoff positions and four above Ufa.
“In case of unsuccessful outcome of the match with Dynamo, we will return the money spent on a ticket, and give a ticket for the next match,” said club president Shamil Gazizov. “This suggests that the players are confident in their abilities. We will try our best to please our 8-9 thousand fans [in attendance].”
Ufa qualified for European play last season with a 6th place finish in the table, but they were eliminated from the Europa League in the qualifying stages by Celtic. They suffered a five-match losing streak through August and September, but have recovered since, slowly climbing the table with just two losses since late September, although they’ve drawn six of their 10 matches in that span.
The Russian Premier League wrapped up play on Saturday, and while CSKA Moscow celebrated its sixth league title, there was a much more historical event happening at the other end of the table.
Dynamo Moscow was relegated after a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Andre Villas Boas and Zenit St. Petersburg. It is the first time the club has fallen out of the top flight in their 93-year club history.
The giants of the Soviet era have won 11 league titles in its history, although none since 1976. They finished third in 2008 and have ended up fourth in three of the past four seasons. However, with just a single point over its final nine games of the year, Dynamo plummeted to 15th in the 16-team table, dooming them to the lower leagues.
With sanctions from Financial Fair Play, the club had to cut spending last summer, but still had a vastly experienced roster of domestic players including Igor Denisov, owner of 52 caps for his home country, plus other experienced players like Pavel Pogrebnyak, Chris Samba, Tomas Hubocan, Andrey Eshchenko, and Aleksey Kozlov.
Meanwhile, Dynamo’s cross-town rivals CSKA won the league with a 1-0 victory over Rubin Kazan on a 16th minute goal from Alan Dzagoev, finishing with 65 points. They needed a win to hold off surprise challengers FC Rostov, who finished two points back thanks to a win of their own on the final day. Both CSKA and Rostov make the Champions League as a result.
AVB and Zenit managed third with 59 points, sending them to the Europa League group stages next season. There could be some other big names going down as well, with both Anzhi Makhachkala and Kuban Krasnodar – European participants in very recent seasons – to play in the relegation playoffs against lower league clubs.
After reaching the round of 16 in the Europa League this season, Dynamo Moscow has been handed a one-year ban from the competition for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
The club had qualified by finishing fourth in the Russian Premier League.
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UEFA’s Financial Fair Play was designed to limit clubs from spending more than they make, and Dynamo president Boris Rotenberg said he had expected a punishment to be handed down.
In a statement on the club’s website from Rotenberg:
I can’t say that we were particularly surprised by UEFA’s ruling.
Discussion about financial fair play did not start today or yesterday. This is why during the winter, we did not sign one new player, which had an effect on Dynamo’s performance in the spring part of the championship.
I am sure that even if we cut our spending, Dynamo will be able to fight for the top positions. I am sure next summer that we will be able to qualify for Europe.”
While the ban from European competition will reduce Dynamo’s revenue from television deals and other incentives, UEFA did not place any additional financial restrictions or transfer bans on the club.
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The club’s position in the Europa League will likely be handed to Rubin Kazan, who finished in fifth place in Russia’s top flight, two points behind Dynamo. However, UEFA is yet to make a statement regarding that possibility.
After spending eight years with Olympique Marseille in his home country of France, Mathieu Valbuena is moving abroad.
With Valencia, QPR, and West Ham looming, Dynamo Moscow announced last night they had completed the transfer for the 5′ 6″ winger, with Valbuena signing a 3-year deal.
The 29-year-old called Dynamo’s roster an “interesting project” and said he’s “happy to be part of it.”
After finishing fourth in the Russian Premier League last season, Dynamo are attempting return to the Champions League. Ironically, Valbuena’s first match with his new club will be a Europa League qualifier on Thursday.
During both the run up to the 2014 World Cup and during the actual event, Valbuena was impressive as France looked to deal without Franck Ribery on the wing.
He received much interest after his positive performances, and had originally rejected Dynamo Moscow before finally agreeing on the deal.
As a thank you for his service, Olympique released a video of Valbuena’s best moments at the club.