The Russian Football Premier League team CSKA Moscow, and the Football National League team SKA Khabarovsk have announced on Twitter that the two clubs have signed a cooperation agreement, effective immediately. Neither club has announced specifics about the deal, but it is understood that SKA Khabarovsk could act as a farm team for CSKA.
— ПФК ЦСКА Москва (@PFC_CSKA_MOSCOW) November 15, 2016
While Spartak Moscow and Zenit Saint Petersburg have their second squads, Spartak-2 and Zenit-2 respectively, these second squads play in the Football National League. This has allowed both clubs to promote the development of some of their strongest youth players more effectively, as they can be send down to the second squad to play professional football on Russia’s second highest level.
CSKA have been lacking in that department, however, and it now appears that the Moscow based club wants to fill the void with SKA Khabarovsk. Historically, the link also makes sense, because SKA (which stands for army sports club), just like CSKA Moscow, traces its origins to the armed forces of the Soviet Union.
SKA Khabarovsk was founded in 1946, but from 1999 to 2016 was known as SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk. Before this season, the club had hired the sport-consulting firm SportMed in order to develop a brand book for the club. The club was then returned to its traditional name, and also introduced a new logo that recalls the club’s connection to the Red Army.
The deal is aided by the historical connection to the Red Army in that fans from both sides tend to support clubs that share a historical connection to the armed forces of the Soviet Union.
Despite the fact that the club is invoking connections to the Red Army, however, SKA Khabarovsk are no longer owned by the armed forces, but rather by the Khabarovsk Krai regional administration, as well as the government owned arms producer Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO), and the government electricity company HydroRus.
This sort of construct is quite common in Russian football where the majority of the clubs are owned by city governments, regional governments, or government organizations. The lack of privately owned clubs in Russian football has recently come under fire by some city governments, who no longer want to subsidize professional sports in Russia.
SKA’s rebranding has been partly motivated by the fact that the region wants to establish the club as the number one team in Russia’s Far East. Khabarovsk, located on the boarder with China and 750km to the Northeast of Vladivostok, is the second largest city in the region.
In the light of the above goal, SKA Khabarovsk’s decision to sign a co-operation agreement with CSKA Moscow makes sense. After matchday 22, SKA were fourth in the FNL, which would qualify them for the promotion playoffs at the end of the season. The deal with CSKA could allow the club to bring in talented players on loan from CSKA, who currently are not good enough to get regular playing time in the RFPL, without having to pay major transfer fees, which would enable SKA to make a real push for promotion after the winter break. CSKA, on the other hand, now has the advantage of both giving valuable playing time to its most promising prospects, and also possibly benefiting from having first refusal on any talent developed at Khabarovsk’s centre of excellence.