The 2013/14 season in Ukraine proved to be a headline maker, for all the wrong reasons. With Russia invading the Crimean area, the season was interrupted many times, with 6 games during that period in May being played behind closed doors. Shakhtar eventually won the title after struggling initially, the loss of Henrikh Mkhitaryan clearly had a profound effect. Dnirpo wrestled 2nd place away from Metalist, who in turn held off Dynamo Kyiv for 3rd spot. Here’s the main info on positioning:
Champions – Shakhtar (Champions League), 2nd – Dnipro (Champions League)
3rd – Metalist, 4th Dynamo Kyiv, 5th – Chornomorets (All Europa League)
Zorya – Europa League
Relegated – Nobody.
Expelled – Tavriya + Sevastopol
Bankrupt – Arsenal Kyiv (technically relegated)
Promoted – Olimpik Donetsk
Refused Promotion – PFC Oleksandriya
As you can see – it all happened! In early October the owners of Arsenal Kyiv decided that they had to file for insolvency as they had so much unaffordable debt. It took until February to officially announce they were no longer taking part in the league, despite not playing a game since November. All points from games already played with them involved were voided. The league became a 15 team league, with one team each weekend not playing.
There were 3 main battles – The fight for the title between Dnipro, Metalist, Dynamo and Shakhtar, the fight for Europa League between the likes of Zorya, Chornmorets and Metalurg Donetsk and then the fight for the non-existant relegation spots, though back then those teams weren’t to know that. Metalurg Zaporizyha were dreadful most of the season, as were Tavriya and Hoverla. Volyn, Sevastopol and Illychivets were the ones caught in the middle with little to play for.
Metalurg Z should have been relegated several times over the past few years but have always been saved by teams failing to meet the licence laws, either from the Premier League or the 1st Division. This season they were saved by the fact Tavriya were a little bit worse than them, and of course because Tavriya were thrown out of the league along with Sevastopol as they are no longer part of Ukraine.
After seeing the financial issues implicated with being in the top league, 1st division side PFC Oleksandriya rejected their promotion, instead forming with another team, merging squads and budgets. To stay in the top league you have to have a decent budget, but unlike England or Germany where there are 5 leagues full of pro-teams vying for promotion to the big time, in Ukraine the system is very weak. Some teams would rather stay down and have some success than go to the top league and get battered every week, with their bank balance taking an equal hit.
Due to this, and the fact three teams were effectively relegated with just one coming up – Olimpik Donetsk (making it 3 Donetsk’s in the league) the 2014/15 season team numbers has decreased to 14 teams, with just one going up/down each season – we wrote an article about this issue and said there was a possibility the numbers would drop, but not quite to the 12 we expected, though that could be an eventuality.
The major issue in this league is the lack of competitiveness’. If Metalurg Zaporizhya knew that finishing in the bottom 2 meant relegation, they may be driven to better performances. They have survived several times because teams do not want to get promoted. With Tavriya gone, and just one relegation spot, probably contested between Olimpik Donetsk and themselves, they may finally find some good performances.
At the top of the league it looks good. Dnipro, Metalist and Dynamo are all challenging Shakhtar, who have had it all their own way in recent history. Hopefully an uneventful season off the pitch allows for one on the pitch!