FC Karpaty Lviv Knocks Metalist Kharkiv from UEFA Champion’s League (sort of)

  • FC Karpaty Lviv Knocks Metalist Kharkiv from UEFA Champion’s League (sort of)
  • FC Karpaty Lviv Knocks Metalist Kharkiv from UEFA Champion’s League (sort of)
  • FC Karpaty Lviv Knocks Metalist Kharkiv from UEFA Champion’s League (sort of)
Issue 60, September 2013.

FC Karpaty Lviv Knocks Metalist Kharkiv from UEFA Champion’s League (sort of)

It’s just six games into the 2013-14 Ukrainian Premiere League season and already FC Karpaty Lviv finds itself 12 points (4 wins) behind second-place and UEFA Champions League contender Metalist Kharkiv. This is a familiar position for both clubs: Metalist fighting for one of Ukraine’s two automatic berths to Europe’s most prestigious club competition and Karpaty struggling to avoid relegation to Ukraine’s second-division ‘First League’. It makes it all the more interesting that it would be these two clubs that would become embroiled in a match-fixing scandal. According to a ruling by the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) and upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the April 19th, 2008 fixture between the sides, resulting in a 4-0 Metalist victory, was found to have been manipulated. Current Champions League rules require that no club has been involved in fixing national or international matches since April 2007 (when it updated its legal statutes). After failing in all its appeals, the decision effectively dumps Metalist from this season’s competition. This is no small decision either: while Karpaty gets off with relatively minor fines, Metalist is set to lose anywhere between $5 and $20 million (or more).

Kickoff: The Scandal Begins

Think back to April 2008. Metalist Kharkiv was in a heated battle with Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk for one of two highly-coveted and financially lucrative Champions League spots. The team sat in third place, twelve points behind Dynamo Kyiv but with two games in hand. The team had an outside chance of catching Dynamo if they could win out the season and hope for Dynamo to stumble. That is when, according to a video shown by Ukrainian broadcaster TVi, Metalist Sports Director Yevhen Krasnikov decided to influence the outcome of the match with Karpaty. The video allegedly shows Karpaty defender Sergei Lashchenkov tell team owner and honorary president Petro Dyminskyy, the club’s honorary president, that he accepted $110,000 from Krasnikov. Other Karpaty players were also alleged to have received payouts. Metalist would take the match 4-0, but was unable to catch Dynamo by the end of the season and finished third.

First Half: Penalties are Levied

A few years later, the FFU completed its investigations and handed penalties to both teams and the individuals involved. Krasnikov, the alleged instigator of the affair, was hit hardest with a $10,000 fine and a 5-year ban from any football-related activity. A 5-year ban, the harshest penalty given to a player, was served to Moldovan National Team captain Serhiy Lashchenkov. Five other former Karpaty players, alleged to have received $10,000 each, were served 3-year suspensions, including: former captain Mykola Ishchenko, Polish goaltender Maciej Nalepa, Ukrainian National Team midfielder Vasyl Kobin, current Sevastopol defender Volodymyr Fedoriv, and former Karpaty / current Metalist defender Serhiy Pshenychnykh. In addition, a number of Karpaty officials were handed suspended bans for having "illegally used information about the fixed match and [failing] to take proper action with regard to such information (i.e. submit it to the FFU)." These include: Dyminskyy, who was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, General Director Ihor Dedyshyn, who was levied a $2,500 fine, and General Director Oleksandr Yefremov. Metalist was stripped of its 2008 bronze medal, both teams were fined $25,000, and both had 9 points deducted from last season’s standings. The last sanction was overturned by the CAS as the FFU’s rules stipulate that point deductions are only allowed for “repeated infractions to the disciplinary rules (i.e. not single offences).”

Second Half: Cheating Costs Money

Fast forward to the end of last season. Metalist Khakiv, under new ownership, finally broke the Shakhtar / Dynamo stranglehold on Ukraine’s Champions League positions. The team entered at the tournament’s third qualifying round, two rounds before the group stages. While off-the-pitch the team appealed the findings of the FFU to the CAS, on-the-pitch the team managed to dump Greek side PAOK from the competition setting up a two-leg fixture with German squad Schalke for the chance to enter the competition’s lucrative group stages. Each Champions League group stage qualifier is guaranteed over $11.5 million. The teams then play six games and are paid $1.35 million for a win and $670,000 for a draw. Financial incentives continue as a team progresses further in the competition. In addition, each team in the competition is awarded a share of cash from the common TV market pool. For example, last season Shakhtar collected nearly $23 million from UEFA during their run to the Round of 16, while Dynamo amassed over $15 million winning just once and drawing twice at the group stage. Moreover, each team collects revenue from ticket and merchandise sales to premium games featuring premiere teams. In August Metalist was thrown out of the competition due to the scandal. All of its appeals were rejected by the CAS. Had the club lost the two-legged qualifier to Schalke, the team could have expected over $5.5 million from UEFA for the games plus gameday revenue. Had they won the qualifier and advanced to the group stages, they could have expected an additional $15 million.

Final Score: Who Really Lost?

So now what happens? All the players involved, the ones that had allegedly accepted Krasnikov’s bribes and were subsequently suspended, are no longer with Karpaty. The directors involved continue to serve with the Karpaty and faced no more than a $5000 fine. While the team must pay an additional $25,000 penalty, the punishment is much bitterer for Metalist. One fixed 4-0 win ended up costing the club between $1.25 and $5 million per goal! It seems a steep price to pay for a match that the club had been already favoured to take. The current owners tried the defence that the infraction happened long ago, before they’d arrived, and that it shouldn’t affect last season’s successes. The former owners, for their part, consider the entire affair to be concocted to protect Dynamo, whose former president led the FFU until 2012. Neither line of argument was bought by either the FFU or the CAS. The team may have a legitimate gripe though as Turkish club Febernahce, also embroiled in a match-fixing scandal, was cleared by CAS to play in their third-round qualifying fixtures, unlike Metalist. In the end, it’s a lesson that Metalist is unlikely to forget. For Karpaty’s part, it seems its owner has learned a lesson. According to the team’s website, he now has a “firm belief [that] Ukrainian football should be clean and fair”, and that he “attempts to apply the principles of fair play in FC Karpaty.” It remains to be seen whether the club will truly ‘play fair’, but they’ll need to improve on the pitch in order to be a contender. Regardless of the team’s on-field success this season, they can at least lay claim to knocking Metalist out of the Champions League. 
*all figures in United States dollars (USD).

• LM Reaney