Outside the Box: Gazprom's hopes of a Soviet reunion are rebuffed


Gazprom, the largest gas company in the world, may be gaining increased influence and exposure as a sponsor of, among others, the Champions' League, Chelsea, Zenit St Petersburg, Schalke 04 and Red Star Belgrade, but their chairman's hopes for a united Russian-Ukrainian League as early as autumn 2014 appear doomed.

Alexey Miller has been talking confidently about proposals for a Unified Football League, bringing clubs like Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev back into the same fold as Zenit and the leading Moscow clubs, as in the Soviet Union days. Uefa, however, insist there can be no cross-border leagues for at least two more years, after which they will study the impact of the Dutch-Belgian women's competition that started this season.

"There are no plans for other regional leagues until the trial has finished, at which point its outcome will be analysed," a statement said. "Should all parties involved [FAs, leagues, clubs] agree to the proposal of a cross-border league, then the Uefa Executive Committee would look into the matter and take a decision."

Oldham get shirty

As Matt Smith's dramatic late equaliser against Everton in the FA Cup last Saturday earned the club another lucrative tie, at Goodison Park, it seemed a little harsh to fine him a week's wages for excitedly throwing his shirt into the crowd at the final whistle.

Yet Oldham say Smith had broken a rule spelt out in a notice in the home dressing-room which read: "Please be advised that due to a severe shortage of first-team home shirts, players must not give away their kit following the conclusion of the Everton match." It was signed by the caretaker-manager Tony Philliskirk and the inappropriately named Neil Joy, the club's chief executive.

Having already earned a six-figure sum from the game, Oldham will reap another £116,000 television fee from the replay on Tuesday.

Reed in a rush

Mark Reed of Buxton in the Evostik Northern Premier League will not forget his 350th appearance for the club. He scored a hat-trick between the 80th and 83rd minutes as the Bucks came from 2-0 down at home to Eastwood Town to win 6-2. NPL officials are now asking whether that is the fastest treble in the League's history. It has not been beaten many times at any level.

Fulham's Graham Leggat was credited with three in three minutes in the 10-1 win over Ipswich on Boxing Day 1963, which was beaten by James Hayter's two minutes 20 seconds for Bournemouth against Wrexham nine years ago; his parents famously missed it, having left early to catch the last ferry back to the Isle of Wight.

The quickest hat-trick in competitive British football was claimed by the 18-year-old Tommy Ross, in the space of 90 seconds in a Highland League match for Ross County against Nairn County in 1964.

Swans hero goes missing

On the subject of hat-tricks, the man who scored one of the most important ones in the history of Swansea City cannot make it to today's Capital One Cup final – because he is going to a wedding.

James Thomas, who is Swansea-born and bred and still a season-ticket holder, scored three in the 4-2 win over Hull on the final day of the 2002-03 season, without which the club would have dropped into non-League football with Shrewsbury Town (Exeter went down instead).

Thomas, 34, who eventually retired because of a knee injury, now works as a driver for the Welsh Ambulance Service and is training to become a paramedic. He told a television interviewer he had not slept for two nights after the Hull game because, being a local boy, he knew how disastrous relegation would have been for the area.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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