Updates from Thursday, May 15
Yahoo! Sports' Staff, via Reuters, confirms an arrest has been made following the incident during Zenit's match yesterday:
Petersburg fan who punched Dynamo Moscow captain Vladimir Granat during a Russian Premier League game on Sunday has been arrested after handing himself in to police.
A statement by Zenit fan Alexey Nesterov was also released, courtesy of the report:
Zenit fan Alexey Nesterov, 45, said he had tried to speak with Dynamo Moscow officials after travelling to the capital.
'Yesterday I went to Moscow and tried to talk with representatives of Dynamo and also Vladimir Granat. They said they did not want me to be present and they did not want to see me.
The police were hunting for me like I was Chikatilo! (Andrei Chikatilo was a notorious Soviet serial killer).
I want my case to be applied to the letter of the law.
There was no fight, everything happened spontaneously, just like a street fight. It is not possible that I broke Granat's jaw, or something like that.'
Following Zenit St Petersburg's match against Dynamo Moscow, which was abandoned prematurely due to a pitch invasion, the Russian Football Union has decided to sanction the hosts with a 3-0 loss, a £16,600 fine and two home matches that will have to be played behind closed doors.
The RFU's disciplinary panel boss Artur Grigoryants was quoted by the BBC, as he commented on the reasoning behind the punishments:
"Zenit were penalised with a technical 3-0 defeat for their inability to secure public order at the arena and for their fans' assault that forced the game to be abandoned."
The hosts were losing 4-2 at the time of the pitch invasion, which saw Dynamo's Vladimir Granat get punched in the head by a Zenit fan, as seen in this video:
Zenit hadn't lost a match since the appointment of new manager Andre Villas-Boas, but Sunday's debacle against Dynamo could cost the club, as they were overtaken by CSKA Moscow in the standings as a result.
This latest incident comes at a particularly bad time for the RFU, as Russian football is desperately trying to clean up its image ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which the country will be hosting.
Between frequent racist incidents, per the Associated Press via The Guardian, and the country's controversial stance on homosexuality, per the AP via lbgtqnation.com, the last thing the Russian federation needed was even more controversy.
In light of this, one would expect the RFU to come down hard on a repeat offender. As bad as racist chants and gay slurs are on a pitch, physical violence toward an opposing player should be crossing some kind of line.
Not in Russia, however, where a club can get away with a measly £16,600 fine and two matches behind closed doors. The RFU had a chance to send a strong message in the wake of this event, and they decided to do the exact opposite.
The fine itself is preposterous, pocket change for Zenit's owners Gazprom who pay star striker Hulk roughly £96,000 in weekly wages, via The Mirror's Alex Hankin.
The two matches will no doubt not sit well with the supporters, but it will hardly deter them from doing something similar in the future. After all, these same supporters already lost two home matches last season when one of them hit Dynamo's Anton Shunin with a firecracker.
Via football.co.uk, FIFA's Jerome Valcke expressed his concerns with Russia's position as the hosts of the 2018 World Cup just last week, emphasising even more potential problems with infrastructure:
I know that there will be a number of problems.
Russia will not be easy. In Russia there is a lot of work to do. [...]
Moscow and Saint Petersburg are used to major events. But in the other cities they also have to build new stadiums or to redo the stadiums.
The RFU had a chance to address concerns of a different kind, namely those of violence in the stands, and they completely blew it. With little being done to work toward a change of mentality in many of Russia's supporters, the outcry against the country organising the 2018 World Cup will only grow.
If a club can get away with failing to protect opposing players from violence by paying the smallest of fines, something is very wrong with the state of Russian football indeed.