Russian turmoil – football in crisis

Russia crashing out of the Euros on Monday night came as no surprise to anyone, inside of Russia.

Aside from the brave showing put on by the gobshites in the street and stadium of Marseilles against their fellow inadequates from England and Wales, it was a real tournament to forget.

The words Russian Turmoil will be heard regularly in the coming two years.


Last week saw the Russian track and field team have their ban upheld.

That it was announced by the IAAF right after President Seb Coe was found to have been buddying up with the wrong sorts and not doing his job, didn’t take away from the annoyance felt by many inside and outside Russia.

Sure there were the usual mouthpieces and rags giving it large about how great a day it was for sport.

Yet only a weekend separated the decision from the “shock” that Mo “No Doorbell” Farah had his timekeeper caught for doping.

The worm turns very quickly in sports.

So with inadequate gobshites making a shame of the country and a doped up athletics system, Dyzuba and Co. had no chance on Monday.

As I predicted before the tournament, getting a single point would be an achievement, it proved sadly prophetic.

So why is Russian football in such a mess? Why is it in turmoil?

Russian turmoil – structure

What is turmoil (definition)? Does it describe what’s going on in Russian football? Is football in Russia doomed, will they do a South Africa in 2018 or will they overachieve and shock us all?

For such a huge country with 143 million citizens, a decent amount of money and three levels of professional football, why is structure so important in contributing to the mess Russian football is in?

  1. There are too many professional clubs – 50 is a maximum number and they each need to be run as businesses with strong community links.
  2. Professional clubs – few are worthwhile in terms of community, none are solvent and very, very few are professionally run.
  3. Leagues – Division Three, the top amateur tier, plays spring-autumn, Premier-Division Two player autumn-spring. The winners of the Third Division wait one year to join the pro ranks, yet to date many have gone bust or suffered severe financial hardship.
  4. Season – The season makes little sense, a reduction to the League of Ireland-style summer season means clubs can avoid the long off-season expenses, and rely more on decent pitches.
  5. Budget planning – This is largely a comedy of human greed and errors. When a club runs out of funds two months after starting the season, something is wrong.
  6. Salary cap as part of budget – There is nothing like this in place though it is badly needed. Clubs take in a tiny percentage of clean revenue, yet sign big contracts with players. Too often these contracts are unpaid.
  7. Union vs Premier League vs Leagues – There is no coherence and too many self-interests. The Premier League have done their best, their holy ground is fast becoming a graveyard like the FNL.
  8. Too many committees, jobsworths and blazers – Becoming a place for the inept, corrupt and unable, the structure of football in Russia has continued to destroy the development of young players since the early-90s. Vested interests are ripe.
  9. Accountability – the RFU allows bankrupt clubs with mountainous debt licences, agents work as club officials, unqualified “doctors” deal in the nefarious and nobody takes control.
  10. Government – The Kremlin officially rules football, yet apart from funding local clubs via central funds, it doesn’t want to see where the money is going. Fearful of what it will find, they would be therefore better off loading up bundles of cash into barges and sinking them – as Lenin did.


I had another 20 points, though these seemed the most important and relatively simple to address.

Yet the greatest reasons for Russian turmoil and lessening chances to remedy it come in the next section – the people who are involved.

Russian turmoil – people

VVP is a football fan, he’s a sports fan and he probably wishes he could do a Ramzan Kadyrov and go out and kick a ball with International football stars.

His force of will ensured Zenit’s recent rise to the top of Russian and European football, and getting the Sochi Olympics and FIFA World Cup will be lasting legacies.

Yet he might well want to distance himself from 2018 before a ball is kicked.

The reason is some of the people holding influential positions in Russian football. People who can assist in changing the game and its structures for the better.

We’ve picked three just individuals who continue to disrupt the sport at home and abroad.

Igor Lebedev is the son of Vladimir Eidelstein/Zhirinovsky. Eidelstein/Zhirinovsky is leader of the Kremlin-approved political party LDPR, a party thriving in the current Russian turmoil.

The LDPR was formed, according to former officers, by the Communist Party and KGB to present an opposition to the rulers.

Igor is an elected deputy of this outfit and survived being convicted of soliciting bribes from a Canadian Oil Company – getting a four-year suspended jail sentence.

He is also a member of the Russian Football Union Executive Committee and one of the least liked or respected.

His moronic statements regarding fan violence (while taken out of context) are typical of the opportunist he is.

Like father like son, he enriches himself while degrading everything he’s involved in. Moves are afoot to delete his place in Russian football.


Alexander Shprygin is another unusual case and self-appointed leader.

The archetypal mammy’s boy with odd tendencies, he is the self-elected leader of the Russian Fans Union.

While not one to run from a full table, he’s not a fighter, despite his rhetoric.

Instead he has continued to deter Russians from attending the local leagues with his posturing and lack of interest in making supporters heard.

His monologue following his detention in France owed more to aping his idol AH’s tome “My Fight” than any kind of struggle.

The racist language, including using the “n” word to describe a French worker, exposed his idiocy to casual fans.

The Kremlin have noted his tendencies, especially his inflated salary of $12,000 a month and his return and re-arrest in France.

He will unlikely be so exalted by the morons come New Year.

Nikolai Grammatikov, an adopted child of cinema legend Vladimir, he failed in business and went into sports.

Acting as an agent he used his family name to open doors.

In 2004/5 being one of a number of people who wanted to form Players Union, he was involved in forging documents to found a union for “Player, Trainers and Agents”.

A few more signatures and non-conference later and the Agents bit was dropped.

Despite these crimes and a very murky personal past, he continues to head up the FIFPro affiliated PSFT despite operating counter to what FIFPro stands for.

Though signing a Memorandum of Understanding to join forces with the larger and respected All-Russian Football Players Union, he has ignored this and the best interests of Russian footballers, male and female, despite what he told FIFPro.

While his days are surely numbered, no progress can be made in the development of Russian players and the rights while he remains outside the law.

These are just three people with leadership roles who have done very little for football in Russia.

Each have grown rich from their positions and each have caused more good people to turn away from football than who they’ve brought in.

Each embarrass Russia and Russian football on the international stage, leaving very little goodwill from any sources with which football can be rescued.

This leads us into the next reason for the Russian turmoil – goodwill.

Russian turmoil – goodwill

Inside Russia there are very few people left to volunteer their time for football.

Last month I spoke with two parents whose sons play with Tim’s club (FK Lev). Both were supporters of Torpedo Moscow and dreamed of signing their kids up in the Torpedo youth section.

With the corruption and fan misbehavior, they’ve stopped going to matches last year. When it was time for their sons to join a club, they sought one where their boys who be trained and treated properly.


Internationally the only goodwill comes at a price. German “agencies” swoop in for a quick euro (they refuse the rouble) and run.

A person working with Fans Direct told me, when I requested help organizing a forum for clubs from Premier down, privately that his “balls would be chopped off” if he got involved with it.

The chopper, pardon the pun, would be those from Fans Direct who don’t view Russian football fans (then and now) in a positive light.

With half-witted statements from Lebedev, cries for help from Shprygin and downright criminality from Grammatikov, the faces of institutional Russian football look rather ugly to those abroad.

To those at home, they’re positively shocking.

Russian turmoil – solution(s)

Coming soon!

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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