The upcoming Rangers v FC Ufa tie could be decided before a ball is kicked.
News sensationally broke in the last 48 hours about Rangers potentially getting a bye in the upcoming Europa League Playoff v FC Ufa due to Visa issues.
Both Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and FC Ufa President Shamil Gazizov have even commented on the incidents. Both are hopeful the tie will be played.
But is the story all paper talk? And what are the actual chances FC Ufa won’t get their travel documentation time? What would it actually mean?
What’s the problem?
Basically, because of the short turnaround from Ufa’s last game in Luxembourg, there is not enough time for the entire team to be issued UK visas by the normal process.
It normally takes the UK Embassy in Ufa a minimum of five days to process the application. If FC Ufa cannot present a side in Glasgow on Thursday, they’ll be forced to forfeit
Why is the prospect of getting a “fast-tracked visa” up in the air?
It’s fair to say UK and Russian relations are pretty low at the moment, so any favours also need to go through a more stringent visa applicant process. This has already affected Russian sports. Russian cyclist Igor Frolov couldn’t perform at the European Championships in Glasgow because he never gave himself enough time for a Visa.
Spartak Moscow were unable to send a youth team to the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland because of new visa restrictions, much to their dismay.
Is there a real possibility of Rangers getting a bye?
There’s always an outside chance, but it’s hard to see it to be honest.
Given the nature of this case – the fact FC Ufa had no way of knowing they would have to apply for a Visa until last Thursday night – it would perhaps be a little untoward not to fast track the documents.
That leads me to believe that FC Ufa should be awarded the right to travel. Rangers v FC Ufa is likely to go ahead.
However, one could say that this is also true of the other sportspeople who were refused entry. But perhaps they didn’t have such a short time frame for applications.
Ufa FC also released a statement from club President Gazizov this afternoon on their Twitter account, loosely translated as:
“No threat of disruption of the match with Rangers FC. No, it’s something with the British media”
But they would say that…