Sooner or later, Zenit’s hegemony in the RPL will end, and it may be necessary to determine the champion of Russia by additional indicators. In general, such a situation could arise even in the completed 2021/2022 season, since Dynamo was only three points behind the St. Petersburg team five rounds before the finish line. If the blue and white had not failed the ending, the outcome of the “golden” race would have been much more exciting.

Two championships of Russia instead of one per season!  Possible RPL reform
Two championships of Russia instead of one per season! Possible RPL reform

According to the current RPL regulations, in the event of a tie in points, the champion (and indeed the team that took a higher place) is determined by the results of personal meetings. This seems like the most unfair scenario. Remembering the legendary confrontation between Spartak and Alania in 1996 in St. Petersburg and Lokomotiv against CSKA in 2002 in Moscow, I would like to appeal to the leaders of Russian football: “RFS, return the golden match!”. Our football needs such superfinals if it is not possible to hold the playoffs in any format to determine the champion. There is hardly anything cooler in sports than defeating the main competitor in the decisive battle for the trophy.

Such matches are never forgotten. For example, if it were not for the golden match rule, Andrey Tikhonov could lose the most important goal and the most memorable championship in his career.

“Most important goal? Of course, the “golden” goal of Alania in 1996. Then I watched it more than once, and the thought was spinning in my head: “Lucky.” Kramarenko, of course, made a mistake in that episode. On the other hand, we deserve this luck. Great work and dedication.

Most memorable championship? Of course, 1996. Then, under the leadership of Georgy Aleksandrovich Yartsev, Spartak had a very young team. Nobody bet on us, but in spite of everything, we took it and became champions!” – Tikhonov said in an interview for Sportbox.

Formally, there is a “golden” match in the RPL regulations even now. But the chances of it being held are virtually nil. Here’s what’s in the docs:

“In case of equality of points for two or more teams, their places in the current and final standings of the championship are determined by the following indicators sequentially in the specified order:

  • according to the results of games between themselves (number of points, number of victories, difference between goals scored and goals conceded, number of goals scored);
  • by the highest number of wins in all matches;
  • by the best difference between goals scored and conceded in all matches;
  • by the highest number of goals scored in all matches.

In case of absolute equality of all the indicated indicators, the places of teams in the final standings are determined in an additional match (tournament) between these teams.

It is not easy to understand why the RFU voluntarily abandoned the superfinal. The initiators of the cancellation of the “golden” match in 2003 were CSKA President Evgeny Giner and head coach Valery Gazzaev, who lost with Alania in 1996 and the army team in 2002. The arguments in favor of the decision were, to put it mildly, dubious: “The Championship is not a Super Bowl and not a commercial tournament to determine the winner in one meeting.” But who prevents you from scoring more points in 30 rounds than your competitors? For the RFU, this, in general, should be a profitable story.

Evgeny Giner and Valery Gazzaev

Evgeny Giner and Valery Gazzaev

Photo: RIA Novosti

If we don’t want the gold medal winner to be determined by one or two games, then the regulations should definitely remove the “personal” – as the first indicator in case of equality of points. Otherwise there is a paradox. Let’s say Zenit and Dynamo would have scored 65 points each – then the St. Petersburg team would have been declared the champion due to superiority in head-to-head meetings (4:1 at home and 1:1 away). But it turns out the following: if we take only matches with all the other participants in the Russian championship, that is, a more objective segment of 28 rounds, then Dynamo has more points than Zenit. Then we add the results of the “PM” to them – the number of points evens out. And after that, we once again take the results of the “PMs” – already as an additional indicator – and, in fact, turn everything upside down! Zenit becomes the champion by playing worse than Dynamo with the other 14 teams in the league. Is it fairer than the “golden” match?

Goal difference seems to be a fairer indicator. Whoever plays more boldly, scores a lot and misses a little, let him get the gold. However, even here there is a risk: “strange” results in the last rounds. Let’s say the team with the worst margin for most of the season wins at the finish line against unmotivated rivals by five to seven goals and thus achieves its goal. Go and then prove that this is not a deal.

How to make the Russian Championship interesting without European Cups?  Our league needs the playoffs!
How to make the Russian Championship interesting without European Cups? Our league needs the playoffs!

Perhaps the best solution is to focus on the number of wins. That is, the second point after the “PM” in the current regulations. With equal victories, look at the number of big ones – who more often won with a difference of three or more goals. Then on the number of wins with a difference of two goals. This is the choice in favor of the attacking team, because truly great champions do not dry up the game, grinding out 1-0, but play spectacular, beautiful football for the fans and score a lot of goals.


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