Football in post Soviet Russia
Governing bodyRFS[1]
National team(s)Russia
ClubsList of football clubs in Russia
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions
Otkrytiye Arena is Spartak Moscow's home ground. It was opened in 2014.
Otkrytiye Arena is Spartak Moscow's home ground. It was opened in 2014.

Association football is the most popular sport in Russia, since beating ice hockey by a huge margin. Men's football is overseen by the Russian Football Union, having the Russian Premier League as the first tier of the Russian football league system, with the Russian Football National League being the second tier.[2][3][4][5]

On 28 February 2022, due to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and in accordance with a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA and UEFA suspended the participation of Russia, including in the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The Russian Football Union unsuccessfully appealed the FIFA and UEFA bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which upheld the bans.[6]

Following the break up of the USSR

When the USSR broke up into 15 different countries, the once-renowned sports structure of the union collapsed. Football was the second most popular sport in the Soviet Union.[7][8] While the national teams and the clubs used to be linked to state institutions or mass organizations, in 1991 some of them became private enterprises. Just like in many other spheres of business, corrupt and sometimes bloody division of power began. Furthermore, many teams of the erstwhile Soviet Top League, were now divided between the national football associations of the newly independent republics. Many of the top brand names lost their financing from the government and were left to rot, waiting for some forms of sponsorship. Citizens of Russia are interested mostly in the national team that gets to compete in the World Cup and the European Championship, and in the Premier league, where clubs from different cities look to become champions of Russia. There are also competitions considered less important, such as the Russian Cup. Some of the most successful clubs include Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg, Dynamo Moscow and FC Torpedo Moscow.[citation needed]

Today, football is the most popular in Russia, beating hockey.[2][3][4][5] A very high proportion of men are interested in it to a certain extent (and many children play it regularly) and women also join men when it comes to the national team. The Russian league is rapidly regaining its former strength because of huge sponsorship deals, an influx of finances and a fairly high degree of competitiveness with roughly 5 teams capable of winning the title. Russian top teams are usually sponsored by state-controlled companies. For example, Gazprom sponsors Zenit Saint Petersburg, Lukoil sponsors FC Spartak Moscow, Russian Railways sponsors FC Lokomotiv Moscow etc. Many notable talented foreign players have been and are playing in the Russian league as well as local talented players worthy of a spot in the starting eleven of the best clubs.[9] Foreign players sometimes face a very hostile environment. A problem of racism in Russian football is particularly important.[10][11]

The Russian national team gained attention when they defeated traditional European powerhouse Netherlands 3-1 in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals before losing to eventual champions Spain. Nevertheless, four players made the Team of the Tournament. Some players such as Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko earned big-money moves to the English Premier League after impressing at the tournament.[12] Currently, the majority of Russian footballers play in a home league mainly due to the foreign players limits. This causes a significant disbalance in players' salaries with Russian footballers getting more than their foreign counterparts only because of their nationality.[13]

Thus as of 2010 the Russian Premier League was among the best in Eastern Europe, as evidenced by recent victories in the UEFA Cup (CSKA Moscow defeated Sporting CP in the 2005 final and Zenit St. Petersburg earned a victory over Rangers F.C. in the 2008 UEFA Cup in Manchester and also claimed the UEFA Super Cup in a 2-1 win over Manchester United.)[14]

On 28 February 2022, due to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and in accordance with a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA and UEFA suspended the participation of Russia, including in the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The Russian Football Union unsuccessfully appealed the FIFA and UEFA bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which upheld the bans.[6]

League system

The first level of the Russian league system is the 16-club Premier League. Below it is the National Football League, a self-governing league, and the Second Division, administered by the Russian Football Union. The National League consists of 20 clubs, and the Second Division has 73 clubs split geographically into five zones (West, Centre, South, Ural-Povolzhye, and East) with varying numbers of clubs in each. After each season, the top two clubs of the National League replace the bottom two clubs of the Premier League, and champions of each Second Division zone replace the five bottom clubs of the National League. A championship between youth teams of Premier League clubs also exists.[15][16]

The Second Division is the lowest level of professional football in Russia. The next level of football is the Amateur Football League, which is split into ten zones: Northwest, Golden Ring, Moscow, Podmoskovye (Moscow region), Chernozemye (Black Earth region), South, Privolzhye (Volga region), Ural and West Siberia, Siberia, and Far East. After each season, the bottom finishers of each Second Division zone are relegated to the Amateur Football League, and the winners of each Amateur Football League are eligible for promotion to the Second Division, subject to meeting Professional Football League requirements.[citation needed]

Seven of the Amateur Football League zones are using one-tier system. The rest (Moscow, Podmoskovye, and Siberia) consist of two divisions with promotion and relegation. This means that a newly created team can enter the Russian league system at the fourth level and reach the Premier League in three years.[citation needed]

There are also championships of federal subjects. These competitions that are not part of the league system; clubs can enter the Amateur Football League not participating in them.[17][18]

The Russian football league system is structured as two series of interconnected football leagues across Russia.

Level League/Division(s)
1 Russian Premier League
16 clubs
2 Russian First League
18 clubs
3 Russian Second League
Group 1
14 clubs
Group 2
22 clubs
Group 3
24 clubs
Group 4
12 clubs
4 Russian Amateur Football League
North West Golden Ring Centre (Moscow) Centre (Moscow Oblast) South Chernozemye Ural and West Siberia Privolzhye Far East Siberia

National team

Main article: Russia national football team

The national teams prior were the Soviet Union national football team, which was a football world power,[19][20][21][22][23][24] and the transitional CIS national football team, which took part in the Euro 1992. Since the collapse of Soviet Union the Russia national team has had success in Euro 2008 before it took ten years to repeat this feat, this time as host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russian team was eliminated in the group stage of the 1994 World Cup, 2002 World Cup, 2010 World Cup, Euro 1992 (as CIS), Euro 2004, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016. Russia didn't qualify for the major tournaments on four occasions: in 1996, 2000, 2006 and 2010. Russian team is currently ranked 41st in the Fifa World Rankings.[25]

Hosting the World Cup

On December 2, 2010, Russia was awarded the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russia hosted the tournament for the first time, becoming the largest country to host the World Cup, a title held by the United States since 1994.[26][27][28]

Cup competitions

The main cup competition in Russia is the Russian Cup. Only professional clubs take part in it.[citation needed]

There is also an Amateur Football League Cup, a competition for the Amateur Football League clubs. The winners of this cup are eligible for promotion to the Second Division.[citation needed] Cups of federal subjects are also played.[citation needed]

European competitions

The Russian League was in 2013 regarded as the 6th strongest league in Europe, based on the UEFA coefficient.[29] Russian club sides constantly compete in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Over the last years Russian clubs have won three major European trophies. These are 2004–05 UEFA Cup won by CSKA Moscow, 2007–08 UEFA Cup and 2008 UEFA Super Cup won by Zenit St. Petersburg.[citation needed]

Women's football

Women's football is not as popular in Russia as men's football, although it has increased in popularity in the 2000s.[30]

See also


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  5. ^ a b "Названы самые популярные виды спорта у детей в России". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
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