Luch Energiya Vladivostok’s Crisis Deepens

It is no secret that Luch Energiya Vladivostok, one of Russia’s most Eastern football clubs is in problems up to its knees. The club has massive financial issues, and it has been on the brink of bankruptcy for a while now.

On Saturday 4th November, another chapter was added to the sad tale about Luch Energiya. The Tigers were supposed to face FC Khimki in the  FNL, but the game was delayed by fifteen minutes. The reason for this was that the players were protesting against the sad state of the club.

Midfielder Dmitry Malyaka told R-Sport after the game;

We’re tired of what’s happening in the club, we suffered as much as we could. They [the club] were silent, but they can’t go on like that. We wanted to stand on the field motionles in the first minute of the match, without any opponent’s attacks. It [the delay] became reality, because Khimki’s coach refused.

Malyaka also explained that the players have gone four months without being paid;

The club doesn’t have money for anything. Not even food. Ointments we buy at our own expense. We didn’t even know if there was a game against Khimki or not. The day before the game, we weren’t allowed to train at the stadium.

For the lowly paid players in the FNL, four months without salary is taking its toll. Malayka explained that his teammates were evicted from their apartments because they couldn’t pay their rent and that the players were starving;

Sometimes we arrive 30 minutes before the [away] match. We leave hungry in the literal sense of the word. And it happens, they call at 2:00 am and say that in 30 minutes you have to go out. It’s very hard. In such conditions, no one would be at the top of the table.

And as Malayka rightly points out, the problems have clearly affected the results. Luch is currently 18th in the 20-team  FNL with 21 points after the first 22 games. Luch have won just four times and the gap up to the right side of the relegation line is slowly growing.

Some of the players who have lost their homes have moved into Luch’s base. There, they were recently fed and supported by a group of Luch fans. One such fan, Daria Muromskaya told R-Sport;

We gathered for one day, spontaneously, bought products and drove to the base. The players didn’t know. When they [the players] arrived at the base by bus, they were told that fans were waiting for them with food. By the look on their faces, it was clear that they were in shock and didn’t expect that.

Muromskaya and a group of other Luch fans had decided to help out the starving players;

We covered the tables, and fed them with soup. To be honest, I have never seen such a reaction to soup in my life. They were so happy about eating something liquid. They drank tea with cookies and fruit. Their faces showed that they were happy.

When the fans arrived at the base they discovered the poor state of the club, as Muromskaya revealed;

No one is cooking there. The refrigerators are empty, although there are football players who live there because of the non-payments of their apartments. We were very surprised because from the only food available at the base was salt. They didn’t even have enough plates for the team.

Before Wednesday’s game against Volgar Astrakhan, the Luch players met with the governor of the Primorsky Krai, Andrei Tarasenko. He promised the players, that he had made an agreement with a new sponsor, and that the problems would soon be solved. At the same time, he emphasized that the players would need to entertain the fans and return to the Premier League.

 

Groundhog Day

Longtime readers of Russian Football News will know that Luch Energiya’s problems are far from unique. In fact, practically all of the clubs in the FNL are struggling financially, and it is not by coincidence that the league has become known as the graveyard (Кладбище). It is arguably the toughest league to compete in the entire world due to the low interest and income and massive expenses related to the travelling across multiple time zones for every single away game.

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Every single year, Russian football experience cases like Luch, and in the end, the players are always the victims when the clubs begin to live above their means.

A person who has tried to play for a club who wasn’t paying its players is the current Red Star Belgrade midfielder Damien Le Tallec. He has a past in both Russia and Ukraine for Mordovia Saransk and Hoverla Uzhgorod. At both, he was unfortunate enough to see first hand how a club is affected when the players aren’t paid.

‘It is very difficult to play when you don’t get your salary’, he told Russian Football News in 2016. ‘It is hard to go to training, and when you lose the atmosphere is terrible. Nobody wants to play’.

Le Tallec revealed that the players simply lose their will to play and fight for the club.

‘From time to time we all thought: “I don’t care if we win or lose. Even if we win, I won’t get paid,” so sometimes you simply don’t care’.

Relegation to the regionalised Eastern division of the PFL would almost certainly save the club, and they will likely finish in the relegation places. However, last season FC Chita “failed” to present the documents for promotion into the FNL in time, and thus Luch was forced to stay in the division despite finishing in the relegation spots. Chita either genuinely forgot to apply, or as is more likely, simply chose not to.

Because of the massive structural problems in the FNL, it remains difficult to be optimistic on Luch Energiya’s behalf, despite the support from the community and governor of the Primorsky Krai.

Toke Møller Theilade

Author: Toke Møller Theilade

Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.

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