The former president of Metalist Kharkiv Oleksandr Yaroslavsky is close to creating a new club in Kharkiv. Metalist Kharkiv effectively ceased to exist in June after the Football Federation of Ukraine refused to issue a professional licence to the club.
Metalist has since been re-founded, and now plays in Kharkiv Regional League. Until the very end there was hope that former owner Yaroslavsky would step in to safe the club.
But in June Yaroslavsky issued a statement about the future of football in Kharkiv. “The soul hurts, but the [current] owner [of Metalist Kharkiv] also said that he would not give anyone the club. Metalist doesn’t exist anymore. But we have to think about football, and what a [potential future] club would be called. As there will be no Metalist there will be another club. I am ready to think about it. I just can’t promise anything, as Metalist’s corpse is still warm.”
Since then Sergey Kurchenko, who bought Metalist under questionable circumstances from Yaroslavsky in December 2012, has given up control of Metalist. As a result the current Metalist, which now competes in the lower regional divisions, is just a shell of the club that once finished second in the Ukrainian Premier League in 2012-13 season.
Despite the fact that Kurchenko has finally stepped away from his ownership at Metalist it was still highly doubtful that Yaroslavsky would return to football. Ukrainian sports portal Tribuna reported that Yaroslavsky has finally made up his mind about the future of football in Kharkiv, and that he will now create a new club that will start playing in the 2017-18 season.
The creation of the new club should be completed no later than this winter, and will start playing in the second division of the national Ukrainian championship. The new club will be named Avanhard Kharkiv, which was the name of Metalist Kharkiv from 1956 and 1967—the club was renamed Metalist after it came under the control of the Zenit sport society at the end of the 1967 Soviet Vysshaya Liga season.
The new club will play in the current Metalist Stadium, which is currently empty, as neither Metalist and Helios Kharkiv, which competes in the Persha Liga (second division), play in the Metalist Stadium.
Furthermore, Yaroslavsky is thought to have the support of both the city, and regional government, as the city wants to turn over Metalist’s former training base to Avanhard Kharkiv. While Kurchenko no longer has control over Metalist, and the Metalist Stadium, he still owns the training base, which could make it difficult for the city to turn the property over to the new club.
On the other hand Kurchenko still has outstanding debts with the Kharkiv city council, and could legally be forced to give up the training base—the city did the same with the stadium. Furthermore, Yaroslavsky is still one of the richest oligarchs in Ukraine, and should be more than capable to provide the new club with prober training facilities.
Regardless of the outstanding problems, thanks to Yaroslavsky it now appears that professional football in Kharkiv will once again have a future, as Avanhard Kharkiv will be the vanguard of football in the region.