Ilya Gerkus – A Zenit Man to Revive Lokomotiv

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After weeks of speculation, Lokomotiv Moscow officially confirmed the departure of president Olga Smorodskaya on Wednesday. After six years of war against the fans, Smorodskaya announced her resignation on the club’s official website, stating that:

“There have been mistakes and achievements, disappointments and discoveries. But there is nothing to compare with absolute happiness that football can bring. When your favorite team is awarded medals. When a cup is brought into the locker room. When dozens of talented players annually graduate from the club’s academy.”

“My heart remains with Lokomotiv,” she finished her goodbye letter.

READ MORE: Smorodskaya’s Reign of Chaos is Coming to an End

Following Smorodskaya out the door was head coach Igor Cherevchenko who sent in his resignation, and sports director Kirill Kotov. Cherevchenko’s assistant Oleg Pashinin, who has no prior experience as head coach, is now the new caretaker until the board finds a more suitable replacement. The rumours have already started, and Kurban Berdyev has reportedly already turned down the job that everyone from Valery Karpin to former Sporting head coach Marco Silva has been linked with.

READ MORE: Yuri Semin – The Holy Man of Russian Football

To replace Smorodskaya, the board of directors has chosen the former CEO of Liga-TV, Ilya Gerkus. He has already changed his profile picture on Facebook to a Lokomotiv crest, which looks a bit strange considering that he on a previous photo is posting with a Zenit St. Petersburg scarf.

In the past, Gerkus worked as development director at Zenit with big success, which is similar to Smorodskaya who worked at CSKA Sport Society. More importantly, he built Liga-TV from scratch, a company created to sell media rights to broadcast the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL) games. It failed to acquire many subscribers (just around 300,000), which could be explained by the lack of interest in domestic football in Russia. He is furthermore famous for being the man who made the NTV-Plus TV-channel’s anchors wear fashionable suits instead of Christmas sweaters.

He does however have business sense and has been capable of making money out of nothing, which will be useful for the Railroaders. They have failed at attracting spectators in recent years, so he will be tasked with making their stay at the stadium comfortable.

Curiously, Gerkus is also one of few supporters of the infamous foreigner limit. In 2015, he responded to a quote from Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller stating that “The RFU should immediately tighten the limit to 6+5. Otherwise, it will be to late,”  by writing ‘YEEEEEEAAAAAH!’ on Facebook.

READ MORE: The Foreigner Limit and Exorbitant Parties in Monte Carlo

Over the years, he has had several discussions about the limit on Facebook. For example, here he argues with Ismail Ibragimov, a former fellow student of mine and head of a scouting agency. Gerkus argues that there is no proof of the negative influence of the limit. Furthermore, he denies that Aleksandr Kokorin rejected an offer from Arsenal, and that former wonder boy Ivan Solovyov is playing in Finland because he enjoys saunas, and not because the limit has messed up his career. Contrary to what most people think, Gerkus claims that people pay too much attention to the limit, but to this day, he is yet to explain why it is a good thing.

Ironically, one of the few things Smorodskaya will be remembered for in a positive light is her position on the foreigner limit. She was an outspoken opponent of the limit, which contradicted the official position of the RFU and the RFPL.

Gerkus’ first major decision as head of the Railroaders was to sack sports director Kirill Kotov and replace him with former Zenit sports director Igor Korneev. Although Kotov was often criticized for his transfer policy, he was also the man who lured stars such as Dame N’Doye, Baye Oumar Niasse, Vedran Corluka and Vitaly Denisov to Loko. Korneev will however be expected to have a higher success rate on the transfer market than his predecessor.

To help him do so, Lokomotiv are expected to bring back club legend Yuri Semin. The former championship winning coach is unlikely to be on the sideline, but it is possible that he will play an important role as a member of the management staff, where the club can use his vast knowledge about the beautiful game.

With Rifat Zhemaletdinov leaving Lokomotiv for an unusually lucrative contract at Rubin Kazan, considering his lack of games at the highest level, it is understandable why the former president insisted on the cancellation of the limit. Now it should be interesting to see how Gerkus is going to handle this problem.


Follow Ilya on Twitter: @Lokosokol

Author: Ilya Sokolov

I became interested in football after the 1998 World Cup. Despite my dad wanting me to support Dynamo, I chose Lokomotiv (the name sounded great) and soon saw the team win the league for the first time in its history. Besides Loko, I also like watching Amateur League games in Moscow and its suburbs.

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