Vadim Furmanov –
Futbolgrad’s Ukrainian Premier League roundup from matchday 13 focuses on Dnipro’s financial problems, and decline in league form.
Since reaching the final of the 2015 Europa League, the history of FC Dnipro can be summed up with the following five words: “and then things got worse.”
The club has gone through severe financial difficulties, mounting debts, a mass exodus of the vast majority of their top players, a ban from European competition, a transfer ban, and even near-extinction. In June of this year there were rumors that owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi had cut off all funding for Dnipro and that the club was set to withdraw from the Ukrainian Premier League. While these reports were premature, their seemingly never-ending, irreversible decline continues.
Earlier this week Dnipro fell in the table from a tie for 9th place to second-from-bottom at eleventh—and that was without either them or any of their competitors having played a match. On Wednesday the Ukrainian Premier League announced a six-point deduction for Dnipro, as decided by the Disciplinary Committee of FIFA.
Dnipro are in negotiations to curb the debt owned to players and coaches
The point deduction is for non-compliance of a FIFA Disciplinary Committee decision dating back to June 19, 2015, which had to do with the debts owed by Dnipro to the Spanish staff of former manager Juande Ramos, who was in charge of the club from 2010 to 2014. The club owe €1.35 million to Ramos’ assistants, but have failed to respond to several FIFA decisions demanding payment. It is precisely this legal issue that resulted in their ban from European competition.
Dnipro’s management have entered into negotiations with the Spanish coaches in an attempt to reach an agreement for restructuring the debt, but thus far such efforts have been unsuccessful. Oleksandr Volkov, the attorney representing Ramos’ staff in the case, told Sport Arena “the club is trying to do something, but their steps must be realistic. Until now Dnipro have not made an offer that is suitable for both parties.”
Unless Dnipro pay off the debts in the immediate future—an unlikely scenario given the trajectory of this saga so far—things will only get worse. Ihor Gataullin, a member of the executive committee of the Football Federation of Ukraine, revealed to Matchday that Dnipro risk an additional nine-point deduction, relegation, and even further sanctions.
Nor is the legal battle with the Spanish coaching staff the only pressing matter for Dnipro’s officials. Their former Croatian striker Nikola Kalinić, currently at Fiorentina, is still owed €340,000. FIFA has already ordered the club to pay him this amount. Should Dnipro fail to settle their debts with Kalinić, yet another point deduction remains a distinct possibility.
Former manager Myron Markevych is also determined to recoup his unpaid wages, which are reported to be €1.7 million. In an interview with Sport Arena at the beginning of this month, Markevych said that he had been offered a managerial position at an unnamed European club a year ago.
He was willing to forgive Dnipro’s debts to him—Markevych had not been paid for three months at the time—if the club released him from his contract. But the 65-year old manager claims that the club demanded that he pay them €2 million to tear up the contract. “That is why I will insist, out of principle, that they will give me the money that I earned honestly.”
Artem Fedetskyi, the former Dnipro fullback who is now at SV Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga, is yet another ex-Dnipro player seeking recompense.
“After the Europa League final and said that the debts that had not been paid off would all be covered,” said Fedetskyi. “After all, this is our money that we earned. We are going to keep demanding it, to hire attorneys.”
These cases might be just the tip of the iceberg
And these are just the publicly known cases that have been reported on in the press. Given the duration of time that Dnipro failed to pay wages over the past two years, it would come as no surprise if there are plenty of other disgruntled former players who are seeking settlement. At this point the legal fees alone may be enough to send the club into bankruptcy.
On the pitch, things are not going much better. Dnipro have not finished lower than sixth in the table since 2000, but now sit in eleventh place. Only the woeful form of Karpaty Lviv below them is keeping Dnipro from the foot of the table and in the lone relegation spot. If the deductions continue they may very well be staring into the face of only the second ever relegation in Dnipro’s history—the first was in 1978 when they finished bottom of the Soviet Vysshaya Liga.
With their 1-1 draw with FC Stal Kamianske, Dnipro are now winless in seven Ukrainian Premier League matches. They narrowly evaded embarrassment in the Ukrainian Cup on Wednesday, requiring penalties to get past FC Desna Chernihiv of the First League.
“There’s not enough motivation, we want some kind of support from the management. So far there is none,” said club captain Ruslan Rotan following the announcement of the deduction. “We hope that in the near future everything will resolve itself.”
Unfortunately, there is nothing to suggest that there is anything that can stop Dnipro’s prolonged, torturous decline. For now the club have managed to avoid the fate that has befallen their historic rivals Metalist Kharkiv, who withdrew from the Premier League and ceased operations following the conclusion of last season. How long for remains an open question.
Ukrainian Premier League Roundup – Talking Points
- Oleksandriya striker Roman Yaremchuk scored after just seven seconds during his side’s 2-2 draw with Vorskla Poltava, breaking the record for the fastest goal in the history of Ukrainian football. The 20-year old striker, who also scored his side’s second goal of the match, is on loan from Dynamo Kyiv. Oleksandriya manger Volodymyr Sharan is concerned that Dynamo may want to recall Yaremchuk back in the winter, but believes that it would be better for the young striker’s development to stay put for now. “There he would only play for the youth side or some other squad, and I would really like for him to play for Oleksandriya until the end of the season,” Sharan said after the match.
- Dynamo manager Serhiy Rebrov’s squad selection in the past two matches suggests Sharan’s concerns may be unfounded. In the cup against Zorya on Wednesday, Rebrov fielded 19-year old Oleksandr Tymchyk, 21-year old Zurab Ochygava, 20-year old Pavlo Orikhovsky, and 18-year old Viktor Tsyhankov. Tsyhankov scored in the 5-2 victory, already his fourth goal for the senior side this season. Against Karpaty on Saturday Rebrov have 20-year old striker Artem Besedin his first start, and he responded by opening the scoring in the 18th minute, his debut goal. Orikhovsky also scored in the 84th minute in what was his first ever Premier League appearance, capping off an emphatic 4-1 victory. Granted, the victory came over last-place Karpaty, who have won just one match all season. But Dynamo’s impressive performances in their last two fixtures and Rebrov’s trust in youth are a positive sign in what has been a difficult season. By the way, star man Andriy Yarmolenko was injured for both matches.
- “For lunch we will try to get them to eat raw meat, so that their eyes will burn.” Chornomorets manager Oleksandr Babych was certainly motivated for his side’s encounter against Shakhtar, but whatever his players had for their pre-match meal was not enough. Shakhtar cruised to a 2-0 victory and remain firm favorites to take back the league title. “I was counting on another result,” said Babych after the match.
- The Control Disciplinary Committee of the FFU had a busy week dealing with fan trouble. Karpaty were handed down a partial stadium closure and a fine for racist chanting directed at Dnipro defender Anderson Pico. Dynamo will pay a fine for pyrotechnics and will not be allowed to have supporters at their next two away matches. The fan sector at Chornomorets Stadium will be closed next match for pyrotechnics. But the biggest punishment was reserved for Volyn Lutsk, whose fans were chanting Nazi slogans at their last match. Volyn’s Avanhard Stadium will be completely closed for their next two matches. The club issued a statement on their official website condemning the behavior and pledging to take legal action against the initiators of the chanting. A most welcome step, if it is indeed implemented
Vadim Furmanov is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He is also a Chicago Fire season ticket holder and a member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.