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Post by Scottish » Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:50 pm

The first and most obvious thing that can be said here is that Ukraine is in a state of what is virtually civil war, split roughly along geographical lines of West-East. There are plenty of places to argue about the rights and wrongs of the conflict. This isn’t one of them.

In terms of football attendances what is inevitable is that Ukraine will fall from its position of 19th in the world and 10th in Europe as several clubs have been forced to play home games far from their homes, not least of them Shakhtar Donetsk, now playing in Lviv about a Land’s End to John O’Groats trip from their home. Unsurprisingly, their attendances have been devastated by the move and in many ways it has been surprising to see support hold up so well. Crowds this season are currently running at around 8,500 per game

The majority of clubs in the Ukrainian Premier League hail from the east and even in regions where the fighting has been less intense or sporadic this has had a knock-on effect on attendances. Figures so far suggest a drop of over 4,000 per game which would push Ukraine about fifteen places down the rankings.

In addition to all this, two Crimean clubs were expelled at the end of last season following that peninsula’s annexation by Russia. Crimean teams have subsequently been banned from participating in Russian competitions by UEFA.

With such a state of chaos it’s to the credit of the sporting authorities in Ukraine that the football season has proceeded as normal as could be possible under the circumstances and full credit also has to go to the clubs and players who – thus far at least – have shown a determination to avoid the sectarianism which destroyed the Yugoslav league in the 1990s.

There were sixteen clubs taking part at the start of last season. Arsenal of Kiev went bankrupt, were expelled from the league and their record expunged (figures not included here). That left fifteen playing each other twice for twenty-eight games each and a total of 210 for the league With the two Crimean teams (figures INCLUDED as they participated for the entire season) being expelled as well and one team promoted there are fourteen teams this season.

Last season’s top flight average was 11,286 with a high of 59,360 and a low of 850. Shakhtar were 59th worldwide.

33335 Shakhtar Donetsk
26681 Dinamo Kiev
23081 Metalist Kharkiv
17107 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
15426 Chernomorets Odessa
7971 Karpaty Lviv
7530 Zorya Lugansk
5646 Metalurg Zaporizhya
5075 Volyn Lutsk
5073 Sevastopol
4904 Vorskla Poltava
4359 Hoverla Uzhgorod
4043 Illichivets
3530 Tavriya Simferopol
2036 Metalurg Donetsk

Naturally, the same circumstances apply to the Ukrainian lower leagues as the Premier so I won’t dwell on what’s happening this season. But the second tier last season ended with one club refusing promotion because of the uncertain future of the country, then merging with another club from the same level. One club was suspended due to the war and another was Crimean and hence effectively struck off the register. As a consequence there was no relegation. It’s nothing new to see teams coming and going from the second level Perscha Liga and even before the war financial crises often provoked departures for reasons other than sporting performance.

The average last season was 1,524, 27th in the rankings. Highest was 8,300 and lowest 100.

3440 Mykolaiv
3171 Nyva Ternopol
2443 Sumy
2207 Oleksandria
1737 Bukovyna Chernivitsi
1572 Zirka Kirovograd
1436 Navtovyk-Ukrnafta Okhtyrka
1371 Avangard Kramatorsk
1301 Desna Chernigiv
1177 Stal Alchevsk
1108 Ukragrokom Golovkivka
1033 FK Poltava
1030 Tytan Armansk
608 Gelios Kharkiv
483 Olimpik Donetsk
271 Dinamo Kiev 2

It’s difficult to explain what happened in the third level Druha Liga and I’m tempted not to bother but suffice it to say that withdrawals, - during the season, at the midwinter break and after the end of the season - loss of licences, the situation in the Crimea and the Donbass basin created a climate for utter chaos to prosper. Yet somehow the third tier muddled through. The average was 689 with a high of 3,100 and a low of fifty. I have included only those teams which completed the season.

1571 Slavyutch Cherkasy
1379 FK Ternopol
1158 Kremin Kremenchuk
836 Obolon-Brovar Kiev
794 Stal Dniprodzerhynsk
708 Enerhiya Nova Kakhova
708 Hirnyk Kryvji Rih
706 Karlivka
647 Arsenal-Kievshchyna Bila Tserkva
547 Skala Stryi
526 Hirnyk-Sport Komsomolsk
524 Krystal Kherson
439 Shakhtar Sverdlovsk
185 Real Pharma Ovidiopol
154 Shakhtar Donetsk 3
141 Makiyivvuhillya Makiyivka

There are levels below this which don’t bear the imprint of the federation or the league (which has a decent English language website for the Premier League) and with the future of Ukraine so uncertain it’s impossible to say what kind of pyramid system will emerge in the future.

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