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Crimean football clubs left in limbo as Russian league switch ruled out for next season

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The Russian Football Union delayed a vote Saturday on whether to absorb Crimea's football clubs, meaning the teams will not be able to compete in the Russian football league next season.

Crimea's clubs played out last season in the Ukrainian league after Russia annexed the peninsula in February and had hoped to switch to the Russian league for next season.

However, a Russian Football Union conference voted to put off a decision, citing requests from FIFA and UEFA for a delay.

"There are no chances whatsoever for the Crimean clubs to make the start of the Russian championship," Vyacheslav Koloskov, honorary president of the union and a former FIFA vice-president, told local media.

On Friday, the Football Federation of Ukraine said it remained opposed to Russian control of Crimean football teams and would pursue the issue with FIFA and UEFA.

Koloskov said he hopes the issue will be resolved by the end of the year to avoid a prolonged dispute over the Crimean clubs that could possibly endanger Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup.

The Russian Football Union has said five clubs have been registered in Crimea as Russian legal entities, which would entitle them to play in the Russian league.

They include former Ukrainian champion Tavria Simferopol, which played in the Ukrainian Premier League last season and has since taken on the new name SKIF, as well as another former Ukrainian top-flight club, FC Sevastopol, which has been renamed the Black Sea Fleet Sports Club.

Reports last month that the Russian Premier League could be expanded from 16 to 18 teams prompted speculation it was being done to accommodate the two leading Crimean clubs, but no change has been made yet.

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