RFA Sanctions Infuriate Zenit
The club’s quest to retain its title has hit a setback after being handed a 0-3 default loss and forced to play two matches behind closed doors.
Published: November 28, 2012 (Issue # 1737)
Despite an appeal by St. Petersburg’s soccer club FC Zenit against sanctions imposed by the disciplinary committee of the Russian Football Association last week, Zenit was forced to play a key derby with one of its main rivals, Russian Premier League leader CSKA Moscow, behind closed doors Monday.
An encounter that would usually draw a sell-out crowd of 20,000 raucous home supporters and a smaller contingent of away fans was played in an eerily empty Petrovsky stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 tie, with Renat Yanbayev opening the scoring for Zenit in the 56th minute, before Rasmus Elm leveled the scores with an 84th-minute penalty.
The decision of the disciplinary committee to punish Zenit came in response to an incident in the Nov. 17 league match between FC Dinamo Moscow and Zenit in Moscow’s Khimki Arena, which was stopped in the 38th minute by the referee and abandoned after a firecracker thrown from the stands hit and injured Dinamo goalkeeper Anton Shunin, who sustained injuries to his eye and ear as a result.
The firecracker was thrown from a sector allocated to Zenit supporters, but the identity of the perpetrator has not yet been determined, despite a police investigation of video evidence and the interrogation of 53 fans directly after the game. According to sports newspaper Sport Express, a police source has confirmed that it was an unidentified young woman who threw the firecracker.
Police from Moscow’s Khimki municipal district, where the abandoned match took place, have arrived in St. Petersburg to assist local police investigating the incident in identifying the woman, Interfax reported.
In an official statement, Zenit said that Dinamo should be held responsible for match safety, as the host club was in charge of selling tickets for the away sector. The identity of fans was not checked during purchasing of tickets to the sector, and searching for dangerous objects such as firecrackers was the responsibility of stadium officials, Zenit said.
“We believe … that responsibility for the incident lies entirely with the home side Dinamo. At the moment there is no evidence that the crime was committed by Zenit fans. The away team is not responsible for the safety of the fans and players according to regulations, and thus should not endure sanctions,” said the statement on the official Zenit website.
Despite this, the committee handed the club a 0-3 default loss for the abandoned fixture against Dinamo and ordered it to play two matches — against the two teams above Zenit in the league table, CSKA Moscow and Anzhi Makhachkala — behind closed doors. Zenit was also ordered to pay a fine of 1.13 million rubles ($36,470). Dinamo, which must also play its Dec. 1 match against FC Rubin Kazan behind closed doors, was issued with a fine of 580,000 rubles ($18,720).
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