Manuel Veth –
Dinamo Moscow will officially mark their return to the Russian Football Premier League on Tuesday when they face city rivals Spartak Moscow. The Moscow Derby will indeed the marquee matchup on matchday 1 of the Russian Football Premier League and is a fitting occasion to mark the return of a club that was relegated for the first time in its history two years ago.
All is, however, not well for Dinamo Moscow these days. Although the club dominated the Football National League (second division) last season, Dinamo were on several occasions on the brink of bankruptcy. Towards the end of last year, there was even talk that Dinamo could fold and that Dinamo-2, who play in the third division Professional Football League would become the new professional side.
Restructuring and financial concessions by their former (by some accounts current owner) the VTB Bank has meant that the club was able to finish the season in the FNL and then celebrate their promotion to the Russian Football Premier League. But even with the club seemingly saved there are further question marks.
The first question is who owns the club? On paper, the owner of Dinamo is the Dynamo Sports Society. A multi-sport association, the Dinamo Sports Society, was founded in 1923 as part of the secret service. The Dinamo Moscow football club was part of the sports society, which in its setup, apart from the fact that it was run by a Soviet ministry, is not too dissimilar from private multi-sport societies that can be found in Spain, Germany and Latin America.
Dinamo Moscow were Privatised After the Fall of Communism
After the fall of communism, FC Dinamo Moscow became a private entity and after multiple ownership changes became part of the VTB-Bank group. That was until the club was banned from UEFA to participate in the UEFA Europa League due to breaches of Financial Fair Play in 2015.
What followed was a fire sale and the relegation of the club to the Football National League. VTB-Bank has since stepped down from being the owner to just being the sponsor. Dinamo’s restructuring could just be a manoeuvre, however, to justify Financial Fair Play watchdogs should Dinamo ever qualify for the Europa League in the future.
Whether the club will get there, however, is doubtful. This season the best Dinamo could hope for is a mid-table finish. After all gone are the days where Dinamo Moscow could bring in countless Portuguese and Brazilian superstars. Instead, the squad mostly consists of solid Russian players and just five foreigners. The most prominent player in the team is perhaps Pavel Pogrebnyak, who played abroad for VfB Stuttgart and Reading.
The 33-year-old will now lead a team of journeymen Russian players and several young talents that have been brought up from Dinamo’s very successful academy. Perhaps the fact that Dinamo have now been forced to bring in players from the academy is one of the big positives going into this season. In a country desperate to restock the national team with new blood the likes of Nikolay Obolskiy, Anton Terekhov, and Maksim Kuzmin will be closely observed this season.
Dinamo-Stadium – When can Dinamo Finally go Home?
Unfortunately for Dinamo fans, however, they will have to play their games far outside of Moscow. When Dinamo host Spartak on Tuesday they will do this at the same stadium the last derby was played almost two years ago, which was the Khimki Arena.
The Khimki Arena is a classic football stadium, but its location in Khimki, a separate town from Moscow means a long day of travel for fans. The main reason for Dinamo having to play there is that their stadium at the Petrovsky Park—located at the Dinamo Metro station—is still under construction.
The Futbolgrad Network visited this facility in November 2015 and then again this summer during the FIFA Confederations Cup. There has been some progress in the two-year gap between the two visits, but in reality, the time should have been enough to finish construction.
The main reason for the long delay of the stadium goes back to the question of ownership. Back when Russia was awarded the rights to host the World Cup the organizers told the owners of the three major clubs in Moscow, Dinamo, Spartak and CSKA, to build a stadium in order to have the chance for their club to have the facility that will become the second host stadium after the Luzhniki at the capital.
In other words, the authorities pitted the oligarchs that owned the three clubs against each other in a race to build a new stadium. The authorities put in a bit of a MaxBetSlots gamble in an attempt to have the owners build the best possible facility to host World Cup games.
The Rotenbergs Lost out on a World Cup Stadium
The Rotenbergs, who own VTB-Bank, saw this as another opportunity to make big money on a sports event. Closely connected to Vladimir Putin, the Rotenberg family was closely involved in the construction of infrastructure at the Sochi Olympic Games. Now the World Cup was supposed to become their next opportunity to make big money on a mega-event.
The problem, however, was that Spartak Moscow’s owner Leonid Fedun was also keen on having his club build a stadium to host World Cup games. Fedun had promised Spartak’s fans that he would finally create a home for Russia’s most successful club—Spartak never had a true home facility since the foundation of the club by the Starostin brothers.
Hence, Fedun got the job done quickly, and when Spartak opened their new stadium in 2014, the facility was practically a lock to host World Cup games in 2018. With the Spartak Stadium completed CSKA Moscow and Dinamo more or less lost their incentives to get their stadiums done. Hence, CSKA waited with their stadium, and the facility was finally done last season.
For the Rotenbergs the completion of Spartak’s stadium meant that there was no longer an incentive to complete the Dinamo Stadium. Hence, construction came to a standstill, and contractors folded. There was almost no activity at the facility at times, and it is only now that the building at the stadium has picked up again.
The likely reason for the return of activity is the fact that with Russia hosting the World Cup next season a major construction site at one of Russia’s most famous football locations would not have looked good for the host nation. It is therefore likely that the Rotenbergs were told to get the job done.
For Dinamo, this means that there is at least a prospect of returning to their traditional home in the medium term future. For now, however, the future is the Khimki Arena and hopefully a solid season in the Russian Football Premier League.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.