All posts by Futbolgrad

Russian Football Adapts to Rouble Crisis

Russian Football Adapts to Rouble Crisis

Last December when the Russian Premier League proposed a fixed exchange rate to help with the rouble crisis it became clear that the financial reality of most of Russian clubs had changed. The 16 Premier League clubs proposed a corporate rouble rate that would lock the exchange at €1 to 55 roubles.

The President of the Russian Premier League, Sergey Pryadkin, called it a necessary step to preserve the financial integrity of the league and pleaded to the players to understand the unusual action. Russian clubs were suffering because the rouble crisis has elevated the salaries of star players, who are all paid in foreign currency.

Despite some resistance, players from several clubs have now accepted the rouble crisis memorandum. At the end of January, for example, Kuban Krasnodar announced that players had accepted the fixed exchange rate.

In February Spartak Moscow’s captain Artem Rebrov announced that the players had also signed the memorandum. Rebrov stated that, “since we live and work in Russia, we also have to help to solve the economic problems of the country.” The financial crisis has also affected the transfer strategy of Russian clubs: Spartak’s owner, Leonid Fedun, for example admitted in February that Spartak would have to rely more on young players in the future and that signings such as that of Dutch winger Quincy Promes, who was bought in from Twente for around €10 million before this season, would be a thing of the past.

The reigning champions CSKA Moscow also talked their players into signing the memorandum, and according to the Brazilian defender Mario Fernandes, the players agreed that it was the right thing to do if they wanted the club to move forward. Despite this the Red Army team was still forced to sell its star and top scorer Seydou Doumbia to Roma in the winter transfer window.

Unlike CSKA and Spartak, Dinamo Moscow chose another approach to deal with the new financial circumstances. Director of Sport, Guram Adzhoyev, stated that they had imposed a salary cap on new player contracts, meaning that in future the maximum they would pay new players would be an annual salary of €2 million plus bonuses.

Adzhoyev also stated that from now on players would be paid in roubles, and that he did not see a point in the fixed rouble rate since players, especially the foreigners, would not understand why they needed to accept it. The fall of the rouble, however, is not the only problem that Dinamo faces. They are currently under investigation for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. In total has Dinamo a transfer minus of €59 million, which is over the allowed amount by €14 million.

The only Russian club that has not adjusted to the new economic climate is Zenit Saint Petersburg, which is conveniently owned by the natural resources giant Gazprom. While the rest of the clubs have sold stars and renegotiated contracts Zenit managed to snap up the Russian international Artem Dzyuba from the rivals Spartak and even extend Hulk’s contract. Yet while Gazprom has chosen not to cut cost on their hometown team, they may in future cut back on foreign sponsorship agreements. Hence, eventually even Gazprom’s football investments may need to adjust to the new financial realities of Russia’s economy.

By Toke Møller Theilade-

Moldovan Football hit by Match Fixing Scandal

Moldovan Football hit by Match Fixing Scandal

Moldovan football appears to have been hit with a match fixing scandal. The German football magazine Kicker reported that 12 players were arrested following a game between Dacia Chisinau and Dinamo-Auto Tiraspol. Immediately following the match, officers of the Moldovan National Anti-Corruption Agency (NAC) stormed the changing rooms of both teams arresting seven players from Dinamo-Auto Tiraspol, and five players from Dacia Chisinau.

Dinamo-Auto’s head coach Igor Negrescu, Dacia’s vice president Ruslan Kmit, and Dacia sporting director Muhajir Polonkoev were also questioned by the authorities. Dinamo-Auto has since released a statement on their homepage stating that they considered the raid by the Anti-Corruption Agency as illegal: “After the match, armed members of the Moldovan National Anti-Corruption Agency came into our dressing room.” Furthermore, the statement reads: “without any explanation and without any reasoning, eight members of Dinamo-Auto were apprehended (seven players and a coach) in Chisinau where they were taken for questioning.”

Dacia is owned by the Ingushetian businessman Adlan Shishkanov, who made headlines in 2007 when he attempted to take over the German club Carl Zeiss Jena. While his takeover of Jena was unsuccessful due to licencing regulations of the DFL (the body that manages the 1. and 2. Bundesliga) that do not allow individuals to own clubs, he has since left a mark in Moldovan football.

As well as owning Dacia, he has built a network of football clubs in the country, among them Dinamo-Auto Tiraspol to which Dacia has loaned several players. He has also been the financial backer of the Russian club FC Angusht Nazran, which plays in the Russian First Division, and is located in Ingushetia.

Those football “networks” are a common occurrence in post-Soviet football. In neighbouring Ukraine for example Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi is linked to various clubs throughout the country, and Shakhtar owner Rinat Akhmetov has recently been linked with a possible takeover of the Serbian club FK Vojvodina. In Moldova the owners of FK Sheriff Tiraspol are even rumoured to own city rival FC Tiraspol.

While these networks are often used as a development system in which young players can more easily be loaned out, they also provide fertile ground for match fixing, money laundering, and corruption. Especially as shared ownership of football clubs makes it easy to arrange results between two clubs ahead of time.

The same day the NAC raided the changing rooms of Dacia Chisinau, two Singaporeans were also arrested for an alleged attempt to fix a match that involved Moldova’s under 21 team. As ProTV Chisinau reported the Singaporeans tried to bribe officials from the Moldovan Football Federation with €50,000. NAC prosecutor Eugen Balan said: “They tried to influence decision-makers from the Moldovan Football Federation to fix under-21 matches in order to win money from gambling.” The bribe was to ensure that Belgium would win the match with a three-goal margin. But according to Kicker Magazine the two Singaporeans were also involved in the Dacia vs. Dinamo-Auto affair.

At this point the match-fixing scandal unearthed in Moldova appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Considering the way that football networks are set up in the post-Soviet space, these forms of scandals are not surprising, as they make it easy for the large betting syndicates in Eastern Europe and Asia to negotiate results between different football clubs.

By Manuel Veth-

Georgia vs Germany: A massive test for Tskhadadze

Georgia vs Germany: A massive test for Tskhadadze

Georgia vs Germany on March 29 will be a massive test for Georgia’s new management crew lead by Kakhaber Tskhadadze. The two countries have only met three times since Georgia gained its independence in 1991. Germany has won all three previous encounters, two of which took place during the 1996 European Championship qualification stage.

Those three matches are not Germany’s only connection to Georgia, as there is a long tradition of Georgians playing in Germany. Georgia’s current national team coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze, for example, played four seasons (from 1992 to 1996) for Eintracht Frankfurt. The former Eintracht Frankfurt and Manchester City player Tskhadadze took over from Temuri Ketsbaia in December 2014, after having successfully coached in neighbouring Azerbaijan where he won the league championship with Inter Baku in 2009/10.

There are no current Bundesliga players on the squad that will face Germany. This does not, however, mean that the squad will be deprived of talent. Some noteworthy players include the defender Saba Kverkvelia who was ranked 19th in Futbolgrad’s FGT30 this January. Other noteworthy players include midfielder Jano Ananidze from Spartak Moscow, and Levan Mchedlidze from Serie A club Empoli, who recently made headlines for scoring within seconds after being brought on against Sassuolo in what was his first goal in this year’s Serie A.

Germany has had a slow start to their Euro 2016 qualification campaign, which saw them lose to Poland, and then draw against Ireland. On Monday Levan Kenia stated to Germany’s Bild: “that since the World Cup Germany is on shaky ground, and a result [for Georgia] may be possible.” Nevertheless, Georgia will need to be in top form, as Germany’s coach Joachim Löw will have a full squad of players available to him for the first time since lifting the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro last June. Furthermore, long injured Holger Badstuber from Bayern Munich, Ilkay Gündogan, and Marco Reus from Borussia Dortmund will join the World Cup winners on the pitch.

Hence, with the game being a must win for Germany as they do not want to drop any more points in the qualification stage, and with a healthy squad at Joachim Löw’s disposal, getting a result might be a tough ask for this Georgian squad. As the track record of Georgia’s national team is bleak against Die Nationalmannschaft, players should perhaps look elsewhere for inspiration. After all Georgia’s biggest footballing triumph came in 1981 against a German team in Germany when Dinamo Tbilisi defeated FC Carl Zeiss Jena in Düsseldorf 2:1 to win the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup competition.

By Manuel Veth-

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30

2014 Futbolgrad Top 30

In January 2015 Futbolgrad published its first annual Futbolgrad Top 30 in three Gazeta posts. Here is the list in its entirety. All statistics (current to January 2015), average grades and
Crimean Football Clubs – A Bleak Anniversary

Crimean Football Clubs – A Bleak Anniversary

This week marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, an event which had far reaching consequences for the Crimean football clubs Tavriya Simferopol, FK Sevastopol, and the lesser-known Zhemchuzhina Yalta.

After the annexation the three clubs were formerly dissolved, just to re-emerge as new clubs that could participate in the Russia football pyramid. These new clubs TSK (Tavriya Simferopol Crimea) Simferopol, SK Chernomorskogo Flota (SKChF) Sevastopol, and Zhemchuzhina Yalta played a handful of games in the third-tier Russian Professional Football League. On August 22, 2014 the UEFA Emergency Panel stated “that any football matches played by Crimean clubs organised under the auspices of the Russian Football Union (RFU) will not be recognised by UEFA until further notice.”

The Russian football authorities, however, believed that they had found a back door by registering the clubs as new entities on Russian territory. Under this format the clubs continued to play in Russia until December. This blatant move to circumnavigate UEFA rulings was heavily protested by the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU), which sent a letter of protest to both FIFA and UEFA asking them to punish the Russian Football Union.

The FFU feared that the political implications of the Crimean clubs playing in Russia could politically legitimize the annexation of the Crimea by Russia. Then on December 4, 2014 UEFA banned the Crimean teams from playing in Russian competitions. Fearing that UEFA could ban Russian clubs from participating in UEFA competitions and that FIFA could potentially withdraw the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Russian Football Union finally gave in to UEFA’s decision.

Furthermore, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino stated, “that for the time being the decision has to be to consider Crimea as a special zone for football purposes.” Subsequently Crimean clubs and Russian officials complained that this would essentially end professional football on the peninsula, but as a Ukrainian journalist told me in December: “you can’t steal a car, and then expect to drive it around in public; the same is true for Crimea’s annexation by Russia.”

UEFA officials have since visited the peninsula to inspect the football infrastructure of the peninsula. On March 5 UEFA stated that they would look into the possibility of setting up a new Crimean Football League at the UEFA Congress on March 24. Meanwhile, the players that have been under contract at the three Crimean based clubs have been without work since January. As Sergey Belebeyev from the All-Ukrainian Association of Professional Football Players stated to the BBC Sportshour on March 14 2015: “the situation is difficult as the clubs have now de-facto ceased to exist.”

It is therefore not without irony that the clubs, of which many fans actually opposed the annexation by Russia, have since become the victim of politics, and that the Crimea will most likely become another ostracised football market in Europe, not unlike Kosovo, North Ossetia, or Abkhazia.

By Manuel Veth-