Smorodskaya’s Reign of Chaos is Coming to an End

smorodskaya loko

The failure of the Russian national team at the Euros in France seems to have carried a wave of changes into Russian football.  The disappointing performances offered by Slutsky’s men have forced the public opinion to start a huge campaign against the RFU, and the decisions taken in recent years. Everyone is, of course, blaming the limit on foreign players and the inflated wages of Russian players, but at the same time, something is also happening within several clubs whose results have been disappointing lately. On the one hand, Rubin Kazan have decided to spend a huge amount of money to revive the team under Spanish head coach Javi Gracia. On the other hand, it seems that the Russian Railways (RZD), the owners of Lokomotiv, have finally opted to change the management of the Red-Greens once and for all. President Olga Smorodskaya has clearly been made a scapegoat and this summer is going to be crucial for the ‘Railroaders’, who are the only club yet to make any signings this season.

Over the years, Olga Smorodskaya has often seemed close to leaving Lokomotiv, but this time it looks like nothing can save her seat at Cherkizovo.

Sergey Stepashin, a member of the Russian Railways’ Boards of Directors, has defined the work of Lokomotiv’s management as “insufficient” and that there’s been “a serious talk” about it within the RZD. Meanwhile, Arkadiy Dvorkovich, the Chairman of the RZD, has set two main tasks for the upcoming season: “Our priority is to bring fans back to the stadium and to develop our academy, to make up a system to prepare our young players for the future.”

Banners attacking Smorodskaya is often seen at Lokomotiv's games.

Banners attacking Smorodskaya is often seen at Lokomotiv’s games.

It’s no secret that if Smorodskaya stays at Lokomotiv, none of that will be done. The Red-Green fans hate her and since she was hired as president in 2010, the average attendance at Lokomotiv Stadium has fallen from 15,000 spectators to the current 7,000. According to reports, the amount of season tickets sold is even lower than last season, underlining how supporters of the Railroaders are waiting for a change in management after six years under Smorodskaya’s guidance.

Before being appointed president of the Railroaders, Smorodskaya worked for the CSKA Sports Society, and her past made her unpopular among the fans from the beginning. Since then Smorodskaya has attracted negative attention for sacking club legend Yuri Semin, and for numerous disastrous dealings in the transfer market.

At the same time, several big talents have left Lokomotiv’s Academy under Smorodskaya to look for their breakthrough elsewhere. Benfica’s Vitaliy Lystsov, Vitesse’s Arshak Koryan, Rubin’s Rifat Zhemaletdinov, Rostov’s Dmitriy Poloz and Ural’s Sergey Serchenkov are just some names that show how the current management have completely failed to create a solid spine of home-made players. Unfortunately for Lokomotiv it doesn’t stop here, as Nikita Kipiani and Georgiy Makhatadze, two of the biggest talents in Russia of their age, looks set to soon follow their former colleagues out the door.

However, with the likely departure of Olga Smorodskaya, which is expected to be announced in August, it’d be interesting to know who can replace her.

Firstly, most of the Russian media claimed that the Rotenberg brothers would take her place, also bringing to Lokomotiv Zenit’s former technical director Igor Korneev as well as current free agent Stanislav Cherchesov. The Rotenbergs are famous for their close links to Dinamo, which is why many Red-Greens fans are against their arrival. After Dinamo were fined for having breached UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, the Rotenbergs decided to stop financing the club, and Boris Rotenberg left his job as president of the club, who were eventually relegated after an awful season. Lokomotiv are currently facing similar issues as Dinamo, and no one wants to copy Dinamo’s demise.

Lastly, but no less important, Lokomotiv fans have voted against them in a recent poll, considering their arrival an even worse event than Smorodskaya staying.

Therefore, as time has gone by, the Rotenbergs have gone farther and farther from Lokomotiv, bringing near other candidates. At the moment, Ilya Gerkus seems the most likely man to replace Smorodskaya. He founded the TV channel Liga TV and has a wide knowledge of marketing. Nevertheless, he’s a Zenit fan and there have already been many photos spread about with him wearing a Zenit’s scarf on various social media outlets.

Therefore it was no surprise when prominent Lokomotiv fans such as Russian artist Valeriy Barinov spoke against Gerkus: “What’s his relation with football and especially with Lokomotiv?! The president should be Yuri Semin, who together with Valeriy Filatov lifted the club from zero.”

Russian sports paper Sport Express have already reported that Yuri Semin could retun to Lokomotiv as RDZ’s main adviser on football matters. However, he’s refused to comment these rumors, but his return would certainly sweeten the current stretched background at Cherkizovo.

Generally speaking, the situation in Lokomotiv is unknown for everyone. The sixth place finish in the 2015/16 season was clearly disappointing, but no changes have been made so far. Smorodskaya’s departure isn’t expected to be announced until after the start of the Premier League, which is a decision that can severely hurt the club as no one knows exactly which direction the club is moving in. Key players such as Zhemaletdinov and Jan Durica have already left the club, while head coach Igor Cherevchenko’s job security remains low as well.

However, Smorodskaya has also been made a scapegoat for Lokomotiv’s problems, and sacking her isn’t going to magically solve the club’s problems. The Railwaymen need a true revolution, which will require time and patience as Lokomotiv needs to change personel on all levels, not only in the president’s seat, in order to find the solution to the puzzle and return Lokomotiv to the absolute top of Russian football. The fans have to be convinced to return to the ground, and the relationship with the fans must be improved in order to regain their trust. The club has taken a turn for the worse during Smorodskaya’s reign of chaos, but Lokomotiv’s potential remains big and with the fans behind them, the Moscow-based side can finally hope to return to the golden times of the early 2000s.


Follow Stefano on Twitter: @ConfortiStefano

Author: Stefano Conforti

Half Russian, half Italian. Football writer and Lokomotiv Moscow supporter. Founder of the FCLMblog, the only blog about Lokomotiv outside Russia, and FCLMmagazine, which is the first magazine in English for an Eastern Europe football club. I’m interested in everything related to Russia and the post-Soviet world.

Comments

  1. SeminForPresident says:

    Hip! Hip! Huzzah!!!
    Hip! Hip! Huzzah!!!
    Hip! Hip! Huzzah!!!

    Semin for President!!!

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