Ukrainian Premier League Confirms 12 Team Format

Ukrainian Premier League Confirms 12 Team Format

On February 29—in what was an entirely predictable development—following a meeting of the general assembly, the Ukrainian Premier League confirmed that next season the league would switch to a 12-team format.

The league will take place over two rounds. In the first round, the clubs will all play each other both home and away, and in the second round they will be split into two groups of six. The top six will fight for the title and the European spots, while the bottom six will try to avoid relegation.

Additionally, the point totals from the first round will carry over into the second. It was also decided that the reserve squad championship will follow the same format.

The change in format is considered to be a temporary, emergency measure to save the league from total financial collapse. Dynamo Kyiv owner and president Ihor Surkis—the only club owner at the general assembly—said that the objective is to return to a 16-club format in two seasons.

The bigger news from the meeting of the general assembly, however, was the election of a new president of the UPL—a position that was effectively vacant for over a year. The winner was Volodymyr Heninson, who ran unopposed. Surkis said jokingly that the election took place like in the times of Leonid Brezhnev—unanimously.

Heninson is a former hotel manager who was educated at Champlain College in the United States. He reportedly first entered the world of football as the director of the NSK Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kyiv in February 2011. At that point construction of the Euro 2012 venue was 10 months behind construction, but under the leadership of Heninson preparations were sped up and the stadium was ready in time for the tournament.

In his latest role Heninson was the executive director of the Football Federation of Ukraine, where he was responsible for communication with UEFA regarding stadium security as well of head of the attestation committee. After an alleged conflict with FFU president Andriy Pavelko, Heninson left his role with the federation and decided to run for UPL president.

According to a report from Tribuna, Heninson is universally acknowledged as an effective manager who does not fall into the sphere of influence of any of the high-profile personalities of Ukrainian football, such as Surkis or Dnipro owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi. His football credentials, however, are lacking, and this could make dealing with club owners on equal terms difficult.

In an interview with journalist Roman Bebekh of Matchday, Heninson outlines his vision for the future of Ukrainian football: “My main objective is to rebuild the structure so that the Premier League turns from a social organization that survives based on contributions from clubs into a league that in three years will not only remove the burden from the clubs, but on the contrary will earn them money. The main purpose is to turn the Premier League into that for which it was created—a profitable organization.”

Heninson additionally intends to solve the television rights issue with a combined pool from the channels 2+2 and Futbol to be distributed between clubs, and has even promised to step down if this matter is not settled.

The distribution of TV money is clearly a priority on Heninson’s agenda, but was not yet addressed at the recent general assembly meeting. The other main source of concern is which teams will receive attestation for next year’s league—Metalurh Zaporizhia are already in the process of liquidation, and questions surround nearly half of the league’s clubs, including Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Volyn Lutsk, Stal Dniprodzerzhynsk, and Hoverla Uzhhorod.

Given the poor rate of reform in all sectors of Ukrainian politics; however, it is too early to be optimistic. Nevertheless, the appointment of Heninson appears to be a step in the right direction for Ukrainian football and a sign of a real desire and intention for reform. Heninson’s performance as Ukrainian Premier League president will determine the future of Ukrainian football.

By Vadim Furmanov –