Growth Forces Russian Championship to Revamp Structure, 2015 Season Begins May 9

While quantitative growth of American football that Russia has witnessed in the recent years has delighted the fans of the game, it has also raised a lot of concerns and discussions on the better organizational framework and national competition system created by theĀ Federation of American Football of Russia (FAFR).

Indeed, the challenges faced by the growing sport are quite unique, as the distance that separates the furthermost teams in the country is about 12,000 km, which greatly hinders the development of the game.

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For years, the only way out of this situation was deemed to be a system of regional divisions that have sent their winners to the playoffs, but this solution also had a problem that obstructed the qualitative development of the game: a great disparity of the level of teams inside these regions. This has both slowed down the progress of the leaders which didn’t face any serious competition en route to the playoffs as well as discouraged the outsiders that oftentimes knew all too well that they will not be able to stay competitive before the season even started. However, a division of the teams into the higher and lower echelons or leagues didn’t appear to be a viable option, as it would’ve spread the teams even further geographically.

However, the newly-appointed Competition Committee headed by Artyom Polyakov has devised a solution that combined both systems for the 2015 season. And while it only runs in a pilot mode for the current season, it appears that it will help solve both problems and allow for the level of the game to grow while keeping it’s geographical coverage as wide as possible.

nPtpd06WghEFirst of all, a so-called Superleague was organized consisting of the following top teams: champions Moscow Patriots, Moscow United, St. Petersburg Griffins, St. Petersburg North Legion (ex. Vikings), and Yaroslavl Rebels. These will play a series of home and away games with each other, with the top two teams going to the playoffs at the semifinals stage.

However, a system of regional divisions was also kept intact and allows the other teams to compete in the same playoff net as the Superleague. These divisions are Volga (Moscow Dragons, Moscow Spartans, Moscow Black Storm, Podolsk Vityaz and Nizhny Novgorod Raiders 52), Urals-Volga (Team Samara, Chelyabinsk Tanks, Ural Lightings), as well as Black Sea (Simpheropol Taurus and Sevastopol Titans). The winners of these divisions (as well as the second place team from division Volga) will be seeded in the same playoff net as the Superleague, while starting at the quarterfinal stage.

The new regulations for participating in the national Championship have also raised the bar for organizational capacity required from the teams to participate, and include such requirements as live broadcasts and gameday coverage, strict uniform and referee requirements and the like.

While forcing the teams to adhere to the higher standards, this has also discouraged some of the other teams to participate. To accommodate them in the national competitive framework, a National Cup will also be held in the latter part of the season that will allow for most other teams to participate as well by keeping the requirements much lower.

Although the results of implementing such a competition system will have to wait to be seen at the end of the season, on paper these changes allow to solve the problems that marred the development of the game in Russia in the recent years, and are giving the fans reasons to be excited for the 2015 season.

The Russian Championship kicks off on Saturday, May 9th, with the following four games:

Yaroslavl Rebels at St. Petersburg Griffins
Moscow United at St. Petersburg North Legion
Moscow Spartans at Moscow Dragons
Moscow Black Storm at Podolsk Vityaz

After being involved in bringing American football to his hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia, Ilya would go on to play in the Japanese X-League, helping his side Tokyo Bullseyes advance all the way to the top tier of the league and become the only