This season the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL) will see three teams promoted from the Football National League (FNL). Whereas first placed Gazovik Orenburg (the club has been renamed to FC Orenburg), and second placed Arsenal Tula were promoted directly from the FNL, third placed Tom Tomsk had to play a two-leg playoff against Kuban Krasnodar, who finished 14th in the RFPL.
In the first leg Kuban Krasnodar beat Tom Tomsk 1-0 on May 24, and therefore had a slight advantage for the return match that took place in the Siberian town of Tomsk on May 27. At the return match Kuban seemed to be affected by the travel, as Tom managed to overturn the results after goals by Yevgeni Bashkirov in the 57th minute, and Valeriu Ciupercă in the 72nd minute.
Some interesting decisions by the referee didn’t help Kuban’s cause, as the Krasnodar-based club had a goal disallowed in the dying moments of the match. 2-1 would have meant that Kuban, and not Tom would be in the RFPL for the 2016-17 season, but such is football—especially in Russia.
Hence, while Kuban will now have to come to terms with life in the second division, Orenburg, Arsenal Tula, and Tom Tomsk can now look ahead to the excitement of Premier League football.
Arsenal Tula’s infrastructure seems to be mostly ready for the RFPL, as the club’s Arsenal Stadium has a capacity of 20,000, and is therefore big enough to fulfil the requirements of the league.
Orenburg’s stadium is a much more modern arena than the Arsenal Stadium in Tula, but with a capacity of just 4,800 it does not fulfil RFPL regulations. Tom’s Trud Stadium meanwhile has an official capacity of 10,000, and was renovated in 2005.
But the RFPL has since introduced tougher stadium regulations, and Tom will have to improve the facility, which currently is deemed unsafe for winter games, if it wants to play its home games in Tomsk. The president of the Russian Football Union and Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko has now confirmed that both clubs could face the prospect playing their home games elsewhere.
Speaking to R-Sport Mutko stated that “From a licencing perspective teams promoted to the Premier League will have to fulfil regulations regarding the infrastructure. These include everything from the field, to the locker rooms, and even hotels.”
The RFU, however, understands that both Tomsk and Orenburg might not be able to fulfil regulations immediately. “Of course we understand that neither club can built a new stadium in a year or two. But both clubs will have to work on key issues. This means that Tom and Orenburg, don’t make attempts to improve the facilities they will have to play in other stadiums,” Mutko explained further.
FC Orenburg has already stated that they will try to make improvements to the stadium during the summer, and the club hopes to add at least 2,500 seats to the stadium. But Russia’s short summer break could force the club to play some games in Ufa. Tom Tomsk meanwhile could be forced to play its home games in Perm—located 2200km west of Tomsk—if the club fails to make improvements to the stadium. Club officials have already appealed to city authorities, as well as the regional government to invest in the stadium.
In the past the RFPL have looked the other way when it came to licencing facilities, but with the World Cup approaching regulations have been tightened, and it therefore remains to be seen whether Tomsk or Perm’s normal home facilities will be hosting RFPL matches in the fall.