Real or fake news – A very Russian report

I sat down with a cup of tea to write  about the horrific financial problems in Russian football. To try figure a way of solving it.

I remembered one solid piece about member clubs, quickly dropped it as to pursue it would lead to Russian clubs ending up in the same ‘professionalism’ category as San Marinese, Andorran and Northern Irish clubs.

In any case, there are no issues here – Players get paid on time and matches are not fixed, at least according to the report (to end all reports) as released by FIFPro least year.

Okay, so we all know the Russian report has more flaws than that produced by Mr. McLaren to keep Craig Reedie in WADA work. The FIFPro and McLaren Reports had the same thing in common – false information from Russians who were busy covering their backsides.

For McLaren it was paid for whistleblowing ‘facts’ from Dr. Rodchenkov; for FIFPro it was the questionable Russian Union of Footballers, Coaches and Agents (RUFCA). According to FIFPro’s Russian section the country is overflowing with inaccuracies that even the most casual glance at Russian sports news tells a different story.

We know FIFPro are reluctant to go on the record about Russia, refusing interview requests from a number of outlets and insiders claim it is because they will be open to all manner of lawsuits should they boot the RUFCA out and bring in the All-Russian Football Players Union, who are actually active and recognised within Russia.

FIFPro’s erstwhile Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs tweets about Italian football and what he’s having for dinner, yet for months has avoided journalists on the topic of Russia.

Silence is golden for governing bodies as facts mount up that contradict their own false news. Luch-Energiya Vladivostok unable to pay for training camp (not to forget player wages) and are boycotted by players and former Premier team Volga Nizhny Novgorod declared bankrupt with debts in excess of $3 million, a large part owed to players.

This is all known and I’m tired of repeating myself. So onto a different kind of Russian report.

I’m writing this on the eve of BBC’s “shocking look at football firms in Russia”, vaseline for the circle jerks that’ll take place in Russia and England’s respective hooligan ‘communities’ where the half-witted gobshites indulge their suppressed desires. These inadequate losers, as profiled here last Summer, will relish telling their deeds.

It’s pitiful, but it’s just another step towards stripping Russia of the 2018 World Cup. So instead of indulging and glorifying this gobshitery, I figured, to hell with it, we need a proper Russian report on how the country is preparing for the World Cup next year.

Stadia and Cities:

Last week I visited Luzhniki and it’s getting there. The infrastructure around the stadium is getting an upgrade and a World Class medical cluster is ramping up, hiring the brightest staff. Frunzenskaya metro and the area around it is now worthy of mention and it is going to be a hub for fans, so too the other metro, Sportivnaya, with pedestrian areas a delight in warm weather.

Before Christmas I was up in St. Petersburg and had the chance to visit Krestovsky. There have been scandals and insanity associated with it, though this will be a delight. ‘St. Petes’ is a city made for tourism and rates 3rd in terms of friendly locals in Russia (Ulyanovsk and Voronezh 1st and 2nd respectively).

I’ve been to Saransk only last Summer and questions remain as to whether or not it’ll be another Rio. The city is fine, set as it is in the centre of penal colonies, and in the Summer has some of the best beer and ice cream. The construction looked fine, but apart from boosting some important people’s bank balances, it’s a bad joke at Mordovia’s expense.

I was last in Ekaterinaburg in 2014, but from all reports the stadium is on track and it will get good crowds so long as tenants FC Ural remain in the Premier division. Set in Sverdlovsk Oblast, the city has an industrial and educational heritage and some stunning local scenery.

For hospitality, I have some reservations, though whoever visits is going to enjoy some very, very funny locals. The Ural sense of humour is the best in Russia, though that’s not setting the bar too high!

When I was last in Kaliningrad I was told by the Mayor that their city has the highest number of unsafe building in Russia. Apparently this was a badge of honour.

The enclave on the Baltic coast is an odd little place – lots of dodgy bandits and politicians. The stadium will be ready, but the strain on the economy will be devastating. The coast is quite beautiful and will be great to visit.

Samara’s Cosmos Arena was in its infancy when I was last there, however recent reports have it past the technical and financial problems. Samara is a nice spot on the Volga and has a definite European feel to it.

The only drawback for the city is that it is going to be ripe for price gouging, especially for accommodation.

Last week, at the Ministry of Sport I discussed this exact issue with one of their elected representatives. She swore that the city and region was doing its best to prevent it, though this seems wishful thinking.

Capital Gains

I was going to continue on city by city, ground by ground, but will get that done in the next article. In the mean time I wanted to recap on what’s happening in Moscow and what to expect.

Since visiting here for the first time in 2005, Moscow has undergone a massive set of changes. Gone are advertising banners draped across streets. Casinos are less visible and there are latin-alphabet signposts in the metro, in addition to English language announcements.

The city has cleaned itself up and while there is much to do, the summer will be greeted by pedestrianised districts in the centre with half-decent Irish-themed pubs. Taxis, buses and trams are far better looked after, with Uber growing in popularity. Food remains a major bugbear, with even half-decent meals costing too much.

The ‘City of Fathers’ has concentrated on getting more non-Russian speaking tour guides ready, not to mention a surprisingly large amount of foreign volunteers signing up to help our visiting fans. A Russian report would not be Moscow complete without mentioning the quality stadium that is Spartak’s Otkritie Arena.

Despite the pretty sub-standard playing surface, the stadium itself has everything even a fair weather fan would need. Sadly Burger King will be hunted out and its evil brother McDonald’s installed, though at least the food quality will be better than in high priced restaurants.

Moscow has improved as a city in the last seven years. It is still almost impossible to enjoy as a place to live, though for visitors it is exactly what you’ve seen in movies. Big, brash, historic, beautiful, insane and grandiose – a sensory assault. And as the assault on Russia’s right to host the World Cup 2018 grows, you might as well book a sightseeing trip and say, “I was there”.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian based sports journalist, commentator and consultant, working with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and commentated at the FIFA World Cup 2018 and 2019 Rugby World Cup.

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