Given Up to Alans
One of FC Alania Fan Club leaders was holding an online broadcast during the Nornickel press conference where an announcement about the company discontinuing financial support of FC Moskva was made. Vladikavkaz citizens went out on the streets right after it had been over: to celebrate Alanias comeback to Russian Premier League. FC Alania automatically replaced FC Moskva which was declared bankrupt. After the sport results had been powerless to guide Alania to Premier League, politics came to help. Alexandr Khloponin, a new Plenipotentiary Envoy of the President to the Caucasus Federal District, is considered to be a hidden maker of Alania return.
If someone will return Alania to big football, North Ossetians will make much of that person - everyone supports Alania here. While playing in the second tier of Russian football they were gathering audiences of about 16,000 spectators. Now this number will be doubled for sure. And there are only few clubs in Russia that can boast such attendances: Spartak and CSKA from Moscow, Zenit from St.Petersburg and Krylya Sovetov from Samara. "It can not be compared to that Moskva club, which has only 1,500 supporters at all and always performs promo-actions like ′invite Mom to the stadium′, ′invite Daddy to the stadium′, ′invite just somebody to the stadium′"- said one Ossetian fan to Newsweek.
There are some reasons to consider that Khloponin, a former CEO of Nornickel company, or maybe some other top-ranking officials are actually related to Alanias return. Khloponin resigned from Nornickel in 2001 and his position was taken by Mikhail Prokhorov. In 2002, Nornickel bought Torpedo-ZIL, a Moscow-based football club, for 500 million roubles [around $ 16 million]. Club was renamed to Torpedo-Metallurg and was going to move to Krasnoyarsk, but Yuriy Luzhkov, a Moscow mayor, was against it. He supposedly made an agreement with Prokhorov on the following conditions: club stays in Moscow and changes its name to FC Moskva, and investors in return get the property rights for the stadium and 15 hectares of adjustment land.
In 2007, Prokhorov declared his intention to separate his assets from those of a long-time partner Vladimir Potanin. Prokhorov sold his part of Nornickel and launched private investment fund called Onexim Group. But soon it turned out that the informal obligations to fund FC Moskva are laid on Nornikel, while the stadium and adjustment area belong to Onexim. Onexim and Nornickel refused to comment on the matter, but a source close to Nornickel explained that all the transactions of 500 million roubles according to Nornickel Charter are fully within the competence of the CEO, so Prokhorov did not have to inform neither the board nor the shareholders about it.
It emerged that FC Moskva should pay Onexim $2 million of stadium rent per year, but the club could only dream about ticket proceeds high enough to cover it. It turned out that Nornickel actually pays to Onexim. Nornickel itself just refused to pay anything - from stadium rent to FC Moskva bills. So by the beginning of 2010 season, as stated by FC Moskva ex-chairman Igor Dmitriev, the club didn′t have any financial assets, except footballers contracts.
The former Nornickel sponsors were sure the blame was on the players themselves. "If the club finished 3rd in the 2009 championship, not 6th, we could "defend" the funding of the club", - Vyacheslav Poltavcev, Nornickel Manager, said in February. "But a row of very suspicious matches at the end of the Premier League season, - he contunied, - when some players, who already moved, for instance, to Dynamo, played not as good as they can, crossed off everything.
Nobody finds this explanation convincing. Suspicious games are a common thing in Russia. Last summer when Krylya Sovetov lost 2:3 to Terek, a massive scandal broke out: Krylya, owned by Rostechnology company, were accused of match fixing, but now the crisis-struck Samara club is promised support from the government.
Nornickel gives another reason that people would not understand them. Location and name of FC Moskva do not comply with sport and social targets of Nornikel. Reaction of workers of Nornickel and citizens of Krasnoyarsk, Norilsk and Murmansk Region doesn′t give us other choices, - Nornickel management said in a statement issued last week.
Until the last moment FC Moskva hoped that the investor with different sport and social targets will replace Nornickel. In 2008, Prokhorov proposed to buy the club out from Nornickel and was ready to support it with his own money, but proposal was refused, and Prokhorov decided not to repeat it two years later.
Nevertheless the other prospective buyer was found. Vladimir Antonov, CEO of Convers Group, relatively huge banking group operating in the post-USSR countries. At the beginning of 2010 his business almost advanced to international level. Dutch company Spyker Cars, where Antonov used to be a major shareholder and the chairman of the board, was the only competitor to buy Swedish SAAB. But General Motors was not ready to make a deal with Russians. Especially as in March, 2009 the Alexandr Antonov, Vladimirs father and owner of Convers Group, assassination attempt occurred. Convers Group had to sell their share in Spyker Cars to the company management, raising the minimum of $80 million.
Convers Group supposed that FC Moskva in its present condition costs zero and were ready to buy it out for the token amount, and then invest $60 million into the club over the next 3 years. Antonov believed that in the time of World Crisis this money would be enough to turn Moskva into a big club. He considered renaming Moskva into Torpedo, and reselling it in 3 years with a profit. It made sense, as there is (or at least was) a steady demand for the historically branded Torpedo clubs. A year ago a company of Alexandr Mamut bought a second division club Torpedo RG and renamed it into Torpedo ZIL.
Nornickel declined Convers Group offer. Unnamed source, familiar with the negotiation process, stated that the decision was cascaded down from the top governmental authorities. And as the compensation of the expenses Nornickel presumably will get some assets in North Caucuses Region. Field analysts do not believe in this scenario but remind that there is a zink factory in Vladikavkaz.
Leonid Isakovich, Chief of Nornickel Sport Projects Department, said that his company did not receive any offers about buying the club, and it was just an invitation to meet and discuss opportunities. But according to the other source related to negotiations between those companies Nornickel got several proposals from different investors, and all of them included trade conditions and parameters. But, as source admits, the buyout price was always low. Anyway, on Wednesday it became clear that FC Moskva will be liquidated, and Alania will replace FC Moskva in RPL.
Alexey Makarkin of Centre of Political Technologies, doubts that Khloponin could make this combination out by himself only - far more likely, Alania just got the promotion as an unexpected present. It′s easy to believe. It is dangerous to set any precedent, because there is a football team in each republic of Caucasus Federal District already. They all had risen to PL on preferential terms. What if they want to win PL on preferential terms?, - the source asked.
But this question probably has an answer. "In Caucasus Region, sports are funded mainly by the government, the sponsors here always were not really ′cool′", - says the source in FC Alania. But Alania′s situation probably is quite different: it is said that Igor Kesaev, a Russian billionaire from Forbes list, is ready to pour enough money into the club to make it finish in the upper half of the RPL table. Kesaevs representatives expressed doubts this information is trustworthy.