Ukrainian football league declares season over after invasion

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A man takes a photo of a central stadium damaged by shelling by Russian forces in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

PA

The Ukrainian football season has been officially canceled due to the Russian invasion, paving the way for Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv to enter the Champions League next season.

The league said after a videoconference with clubs on Tuesday that the standings as of February 24, when the Russian invasion began and games were suspended, will be declared final ‘because the championship cannot be played to the end. “.

Shakhtar was the leader at that time, but the league said no official title awards would be made.

The table could decide qualification for European competitions next season if Ukrainian clubs are able to participate. The league’s decision must be approved by the Ukrainian football association, which will have to submit entries for the competition to UEFA in early June. This includes two places in the next Champions League.

The Ukrainian league champion was due to enter the qualifying rounds of the playoffs in August, needing to beat an opponent to advance to the group stage.

However, one possible scenario is that Shakhtar could be promoted to the group stage to take the protected direct entry for the Russian league champions, currently expected to be Zenit Saint Petersburg.

UEFA has banned all Russian teams from its competitions due to the war and it is unclear how this sanction will be lifted until next season. Ukraine, as the UEFA No. 12-ranked domestic league, would be next in line to gain the direct entry that Russia may be forced to drop.

Of the 16 teams in the league, FC Mariupol’s stadium is now in Russian-held territory and Desna Chernihiv’s stadium was destroyed by shelling which collapsed part of a stand and left a deep crater on the pitch.

Ukraine’s two biggest teams, Shakhtar and Dynamo, are each touring Europe to play a series of charity matches against clubs across the continent to raise money for those affected by the war.

Shakhtar had already had to leave their hometown of Donetsk in 2014 when they were taken over by Russian-backed separatists and have since been based elsewhere in Ukraine, as is another top division club Zorya Luhansk.

Dynamo were second to Shakhtar in the now-suspended league table and could be entered for the Champions League in the second qualifying round. The draw for this round is scheduled for June 15 at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland and matches will be played from July 19-27.

Third-placed Dnipro could be entered in the Europa League, joining the knockout round in August. Fourth and fifth place teams Zorya Luhansk and Vorskla Poltava are in contention to participate in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds.

It is far from clear how Ukrainian clubs will retain and recruit players for next season, and where they will prepare and play domestic and international matches.

The Ukrainian men’s national team is still in contention to qualify for this year’s World Cup. Ukraine are set to face Scotland in a postponed qualifying playoff on June 1 in Glasgow, with the winner due to face Wales four days later in Cardiff for a place at the tournament in Qatar.

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