Shakhtar Donetsk are poised to make a major investment into Scottish football. Futbolgrad has learned that Shakhtar are in advanced talks with Dundee United over a cooperation agreement which would see Dundee United FC become a feeder club for the Ukrainian based club.
It is important to note that the proposal put forward would not see Shakhtar or their owner, Rinat Akhmetov, buy Dundee United outright. Instead, Shakhtar, as part of a consortium, together with a player agency, would establish a network with the Scottish club.
Although multiple club ownership is a common phenomenon in the post-Soviet space, UEFA technically frowns upon the practice, and consequently, clubs owned by the same ownership groups are not allowed to compete against one another in such UEFA competitions as the UEFA Champions League, and the UEFA Europa League.
The Dutch football federation KNVB recently investigated the link between Vitesse Arnhem and Chelsea FC, after former Vitesse owner Merab Jordania suggested that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had influenced his club’s policies—Chelsea supposedly have a youth player development agreement with Vitesse, which sees some of Chelsea’s brightest talents loaned out to Vitesse.
Jordania has told one Dutch newspaper that Chelsea had told Vitesse not to qualify for the UEFA Champions League out of fear that UEFA could investigate the link between the two clubs. An independent investigation has found that there is no written agreement in place between the two clubs, but also noted that Jordania has refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Hence, it is understood that Shakhtar will provide mainly expertise to the consortium group. In addition, there are suggestions that one of Akhmetov’s companies could become an official sponsor at United. This would allow both clubs to stay in the clear, in case both Shakhtar and Dundee United simultaneously qualify for a European competition.
Since taking the club over in the early 2000s, Rinat Akhmetov has not only turned Shakhtar into the most successful club in the post-Soviet space, but has also made the club the most modern in terms of infrastructure and brand recognition. If the potential cooperation agreement were finalized, Shakhtar could share their marketing expertise with Dundee United.
Another benefit could come from the fact that Shakhtar have a successful academy—Shakhtar reached the UEFA Youth League final in 2015, where they narrowly lost to Chelsea 3-2—and are actively looking for a club outside of Ukraine to provide some of their brightest talents their first team experience.
Dundee United, on the other hand, have had a fantastic record in developing players; in recent times they have sold Stuart Armstrong, Gary MacKay-Steven, Nadir Ciftci (Celtic), Andy Robertson (Hull City) and Ryan Gauld (Sporting Lisbon) for big transfer fees. Shakhtar therefore could look both at United’s academy for potential signings, but might also sell on their own talents, via United, to teams in the United Kingdom and Western Europe.
Shakhtar Donetsk have, in the past, looked at clubs in Eastern Europe for cooperation agreements. In February 2015, Futbolgrad reported that Akhmetov was looking at purchasing the Serbian club FK Vojvodina Novi Sad, but the deal fell through because Serbia’s complicated sports laws translate into it being easier to win at the Robin Hood slot machine than investing in Serbian football. Akhmetov has also looked into buying financially troubled CSKA Sofia.
It now appears, however, that Shakhtar would prefer a cooperation agreement with Dundee United. Indeed this would be beneficial for both Shakhtar and United. Shakhtar could loan out its brightest talents to the Scottish team, and at the same time, grow its brand in the United Kingdom. United, on the other hand, would have access to a wide talent pool of Ukrainian—and perhaps even the odd South American—players, and also would benefit from Shakhtar’s marketing expertise—and might be able to secure a high profile sponsorship deal. It seems to be a win-win situation.