In some of the most disappointing yet predictable news to come out of Ukrainian football during the extended winter break, the never-ending Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk crisis is only getting worse. Last week FCDnipro.com, an unofficial website, broke the news that the club will be excluded from European competition due to debts owed to the coaching staff of former manager Juande Ramos.
In April of 2015 several members of Ramos’ staff filed a complaint with the dispute resolution committee of the Football Federation of Ukraine, who then ruled that Dnipro had to pay €900,000 to its own staff. UEFA later stepped in and reaffirmed this ruling while additionally fining the club €840,000, which the club will have to pay on top of the debts still owned to other clubs.
Dnipro was given until the end of January to clear these debts or risk exclusion from European competition, but as FCDnipro.com reported on February 3rd, owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi has shown little willingness to comply with the ruling.
Then, on February 5th Segodnya reported that Dnipro may be liquidated in the summer. A source close to Kolomoyskyi told the news portal “The decline of Dnipro is entirely realistic. What reason is there for [Kolomoyskyi] to give away €1.7 million for something that he may not need in the summer? Maybe he no longer seems himself in Ukraine.”
The very next day FCDnipro.com revealed that Dnipro’s owner had a change of heart and was after all willing to pay Dnipro’s debts—but not the entire amount. The exact sum with which Kolomoyskyi was ready to depart was not announced, but the source indicated that it was less than €1 million.
While this is a step in the right direction, it is unlikely that UEFA will back down. In their decision issued back in December officials from the confederation’s disciplinary body commented: “It has been nearly 18 months since Dnipro’s first warning. During this time, an alternative solution to solve all the problems with their banking activities could have been found. With regards to the economic problems in Ukraine, this is too vague of a definition for force-majeure.”
The last part of this statement indicates that UEFA did not accept Dnipro’s argument that the financial crisis facing the country as a whole was a sufficient reason to grant the club a reprieve. Additionally, the fact that Dnipro did not file an appeal decreased the chance that UEFA will change their decision.
This is just the latest in a string of bad news for the club, who were on the brink of European glory just 8 months ago. Several key players left in the summer and were not adequately replaced, and in the first part of the season Dnipro underperformed and unceremoniously fell out the Europa League in the group stages.
Currently, Dnipro find themselves in fourth place in the Ukrainian Premier League, six points behind Zorya Luhansk. Being outside the top three places in the Ukrainian Premier League is a massive disappointment and also an embarrassment for a club of Dnipro’s stature, especially considering how weak the league is in general.
To make matters worse two more important players, goalkeeper Denys Boyko and midfielder Valeriy Fedorchuk both left the club in the winter transfer window to Turkish side Beşiktaş and Dynamo Kyiv, respectively. This leaves Dnipro with an even thinner, weaker squad for the second half of the season.
The Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk crisis also reflects the increasing interference of outside governing bodies in Ukrainian football. Last month FIFA issued Volyn Lutsk a 12-point deduction over unpaid debts. Since Ukrainian officials are unwilling to impose sanctions on clubs with outstanding debts, FIFA and UEFA are stepping in to handle the disciplinary measures. This could only mean bad news for Ukrainian football, which is currently in a state of perpetual crisis.