Midsummer madness in Moscow

McGeady Champions LeagueAs we hit midsummer and the football season is back in full swing, a few recent stories have caught the eye.

We’re special

Russian Premier clubs have united in something other than anti-Tolstykh feelings. The reason? Financial Fair Play. Since almost every single club will fall outside the guidelines in perpetuity, they’ve done more than hold discussions in hotel lobbies and over the phone, they’ve leaked to the media. What has been known for a long time to followers of Russian football and that I’ve had to listen to first hand, Premier clubs are lobbying the RFS to go ask for a dispensation from UEFA so that clubs can be bailed out by their owners. The reasons? They don’t get that much from TV rights, which is very true.

In fact in recent studies of sources of revenue Russia ranks near the bottom in percentage terms with other European leagues. The move to satellite tv for Russian Premier matches has not helped this and has also dissuaded multinational companies from getting on board for sponsorship with clubs (or the league(s)). Like the supposed approach to Sepp Blatter to make Ireland a 33 rd country at the last World Cup, Russian Premier League clubs will have to continue to come up with genius ways to fund excessive salaries. Or, the game can be given back to the people on free to air tv – thus increasing sponsor interest, public interest and giving clubs a chance to market themselves. On the other hand, there is sense in moving to satellite tv as viewing figures have halved in the last decade.

Honest owner?

I’d mentioned one unusual/exceptional (delete the inappropriate description) club owner in Russia a couple of times before. FC Krasnodar’s head honcho Sergei Galitsky is very much in the all or nothing mode. Not a man to let grass grow under his tweet feet, he has been outspoken on issues as diverse as the illogical snubbing of Krasnodar as a World Cup host city, poor refereeing and behaviour of other club owners. Last week he took a real gamble in telling it like it is – and how anyone working in football (or sports) understands. Some clubs “punch above their weight” or are “greater than the sum of their parts”, but each season’s end, the club with the most money usually wins the league and sustained success on a tiny budget is almost impossible. Having the most money for one season doesn’t really count, spending it for 8-10 seasons in a row matters most.

Certainly proper planning, local support, quality coaching and the luck that ensues from those all play a part, though in any league in any country, budgets decide places. The bold Sergei stated that while each team sets out to win every game, realistically it’s all about the money and that in such terms he’s happy to keep an average budget and develop in an “evolutionary way”. The aim for this season is 7 th -9 th . While some view this as loser talk or cowardice or high treason, it comes from the owner of a retail company set up in 1994 and has almost 7,500 outlets and counting across Russia. A man whose company is listed in London and Moscow, and who is worth more than $8billion according to Forbes, yet views a football club as a long term project? Time and success will tell the tale. In every good news story in a football club there will always lurk a suspicion of something not so sweet.

Tug of love (of money)

The route for Armenian footballers to the International team is well known to go through the good graces of the Armenian FA President’s office (and club, Pyunik Yerevan). It is accepted and many footballers have resigned their hopes of playing for their country due to not getting on the production line. So too the chances of obtaining big moves abroad, or moves that will give them a chance of playing in front of more than a dozen people. Henriykh Mkhitaryan’s saga of lost love with Liverpool should be an illumination of how Armenian players are trafficked abroad. Well in with the ruling football elite in Yerevan, he made the time honoured move to Metalurg Donetsk, he jumped over the road to Shaktar, and moved for mad money to Germany. More regularly players serve their time with Metalurg before moving to Kuban Krasnodar and from there move within Russia or abroad.

The transit route ran via joined hands from Pyunik-Metalurg-Kuban and a former powerbroker in the deal was the famed Dmitriy Selyuk. Having heard about his operations from first hand witnesses prior to his removal from Metalurg, I was surprised to see the Catalan-based operator pop up yesterday (13.07) in relation to the recent rumours of a move for the Armenian star Araz Ozbiliz who only last year arrived from Ajax on a million euro fee. The player is wanted by moneyed Monaco and the fee is in the region of €6million, though there is a catch, his contract is 50% owned by, Dmitriy Selyuk – who has claimed that he never said he is the players agent. With legal threats flying and no mention of the illegality of it all, the agent will most likely win and receive most, if not all the €3million he is claiming for. Given Kuban have been one of the better run clubs in Russia with performances on and off the field, it is a lesson in how money will out.

Streaking ahead

Not a streaker report, but rather the impressive development of the Spartak Arena in Tushino. Almost daily I cast an eye north as I pass by and the work has been progressing nicely. Now the roof is going up on the arena and there are definite feelings that this year could be it for Spartak, years of hurt being bridged with the lifelong dream of Mr. Karpin becoming reality. While there are signs of a possible resurgent “Meat “ (club nickname), it will only happen with less boardroom interference and infighting, not to mention the full turn out of supporters this season. With Anzhi much strengthened, CSKA looking strong and Zenit opening the purse, Spartak could well suffer again from a lack of leadership on and off the pitch, but at least the move to North Moscow grows nearer.

Movers and shakers

Aiden McGeady’s agent has angled him for a move before the window shuts, now merely a squad player he looks like losing out to a possible move for former Chelsea player Salomon Kalou who is a logical fit for Spartak.

And in the meantime, we still don’t know what Eddie “The Hidden Eagle” Snowden is going to do, despite his Adrian Mole type letter for asylum. Anti-immigrant and Caucasian blogger/businessman Alexei Navalny was found guilty of embezzlement and despite the charges having a mass of evidence, was released to take part in the Moscow Mayoral elections (even Fine Gael or the Conservatives couldn’t dream this up). All continues to be exciting and fun in Russia, except the football.

Author Details

Alan Moore
Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13. First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, now hosting Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow and the Capital Sports Stadium Shows at the RZD Arena and writing the odd article. Director of the Russian State Social University College in Moscow. And to make things more fun, he produces and hosts #ChampTalks for UNESCO, Moscow's Tolerance Centre and Capital FM.

2 thoughts on “Midsummer madness in Moscow

    1. Aiden McGeady merely a squad player. Think you better check how many starts he has made each season, even including this one. Never been a squad player in his three years at the club. Only ever been benched when returning from injuries or suspension

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