Not really football: what you need to know about the scandal “Dynamo” and “Mariupol”
The biggest scandal in Ukrainian football this summer – the non-appearance of Dynamo Kyiv for the 7th round match of the Premier League in Mariupol – only at first glance it has a purely sports basis. Ukrainian football is a long and complex history of relations between the powerful, a series of alliances, betrayals, offenses and backstage negotiations. Often intertwined with big politics and always tied up with big money and influence. What are silent, discussing the topic of “Dynamo” and “Mariupol” – in the material RBC-Ukraine.
After 2014, the second Maidan, the start of the war and the annexation of a part of the Ukrainian territory, the once growing, albeit with oligarchic money, Ukrainian football entered a steep dive. Part of the Ukrainian oligarchs were cut off from budgetary flows and influence on political processes. Some of them were forced to flee the country, while others cost a significant drop in Forbes ratings. As a result, Kolomoisky, Kurchenko, Taruta, Shufrich and others were forced to abandon such fashionable, but subsidized projects, like football clubs. Indeed, unlike the West, football in Ukraine is not a business.
Kiev Arsenal and Kryvbas Krivoi Rog died very quickly. The company was formed by Donetsk Metalurh, Metalist Kharkiv, Volyn Lutsk, Goverla Uzhgorod, and even Dnipro. All this led to the devaluation of Ukrainian club football – two teams are fighting for the championship again. In our football came the calm, and so it was from 2014 to summer of 2017, until Ukraine was shaken by a loud sport and reputational conflict. With the obvious participation of Kiev “Dynamo” and hidden – Donetsk “Shakhtar”. The leadership of the former is trying to regain its former positions, the owner of the latter is to preserve hegemony.
Business background of conflict
FC “Mariupol” is the successor of the Mariupol Illichivets club, which previously bore the name Metallurg (Mariupol). The main sponsor of the team throughout its history was the Mariupol Iron and Steel Works named after Ilyich, headed by the late Vladimir Boyko.
July 1, 2010 the company Metinvest B.V. (Netherlands), a subsidiary of SCM Limited in Cyprus, a subsidiary of SCM, was included in the list of investors, among which are shares of additional issue of the plant.
“After the placement of additional shares, 75% of the shares will be owned by Metinvest (including the shares already owned by it). Another 23% will remain under the control of the chairman of the board, general director Vladimir Boyko. The remaining shares will be owned by minority shareholders”, – said in a statement.
Exactly since then the billionaire and the president of Shakhtar Donetsk Rinat Akhmetov has become the actual sponsor of the Mariupol football club. It is difficult to assume that the Pitmen’s owner will be upset by the loss of the most important points in the standings by his direct and only competitors from Kiev.
Political aspect: versions
The weight of the Surkis brothers in Ukrainian football in recent years and even decades has dropped just as noticeably as in politics. If in the late 1990s they had a parliamentary “roof” in the form of the once-influential SDPU (s), friendly president Leonid Kuchma, the eldest of the brothers – Grigory Surkis as head of FFU and fewer competitors in business, today the situation is exactly the opposite.
Football business projects of Rinat Akhmetov took leading positions in Ukrainian football, the energy business partner of brothers Dmitry Firtash is under house arrest in Austria, and the nationalization of PrivatBank – the former title and not only the sponsor of Dynamo added financial problems to the club. Add to all the political and psychological discomfort in the form of a well-remembered Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine.
Poroshenko remembers the unpleasant episodes of cooperation with the Surkis in the past. One of them is related to the role of the brothers in Poroshenko’s resignation from the SDPU (o) party. In June 2017, the media reported that Gregory and Igor Surkis were forced to negotiate the sale of their shares in Ternopoloblenergo, Prykarpattyaoblenergo and Lvovoblenergo. The buyer, according to sources – the closest circle of Petro Poroshenko. Pressure from the authorities does not stop. Recall, the president of the FFU, Andrei Pavelko, is also the head of the budget committee of the Verkhovna Rada of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction.
According to sources in the federation, the “clinch” around, at first glance, the passing theme of Dynamo and Mariupol is an attempt by the Kiev club to regain influence on Ukrainian football, as an important component of the public life of the country as a whole.
Separate emphasis – in the next six months, Grigory Surkis needs to take a post in the Football Federation of Ukraine. If he, of course, wants to retain the post of vice-president of UEFA. Indeed, according to the recent innovations of the European Football Association, only officials of their national associations can be in its executive committee.