Six months have passed since the end of the professional life of the Tambov football club, and the financial scandals around it continue. On November 24, law enforcement agencies detained the former sports director of the organization, Pavel Khudyakov. It has not yet been officially announced which announcements have been presented to him, but, According to Izvestia’s source in law enforcement agencies, it may be about fraud and embezzlement of subsidies allocated from the budget of the Tambov region. On September 30, police detained Olga Konovalova, the former general director of Tambov, in a fraudulent criminal case. On October 1, the Leninsky District Court of the city of Tambov arrested her until November 29. Back in winter, the club filed a bankruptcy lawsuit, the procedure of which began in May, when the Tambovites finished their performance in the RPL season.
FC Tambov was founded in 2013 after the closure of a local team called Spartak, which played in the second division for a long time. After three seasons, the new club won in the Center zone of the second league (PFL) and advanced to the first division (FNL). There he managed to take fifth place in the first year, and at the end of the 2017/18 championship he ended up in transitional matches for the right to play in the Premier League, but lost to Perm “Amkar”.
In 2019, Tambov managed to directly enter the elite of Russian football. Even then, it became clear that the club would have problems with home matches in their region., since there was not a single stadium on its territory that met RPL standards.
In the FNL, the team played at the Spartak stadium, which can accommodate about 5 thousand spectators, while in the Premier League the arena must accommodate at least 10 thousand. The process of reconstruction of the old stadium or the construction of a new one has not been launched. In November 2020, Irina Lartseva, First Deputy Head of the Department for Physical Culture and Sports of the Tambov Region, announced that the Spartak stadium was under reconstruction, funds were allocated for it from the regional budget, but difficulties arose with the state expertise.
In the future, the topic of the stadium has been publicly raised by the club more than once, but a final answer from the then regional leadership has not been received. RPL went to meet “Tambov” and allowed him to compete, allowing him to play home matches outside the region.
Photo: Izvestia / Dmitry Korotaev
Eventually the previous two seasons Tambov played at home at the Mordovia Arena and the Nizhny Novgorod stadiumbuilt for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This significantly complicated the logistics for the team, which played almost without the support of its own fans, who could not travel in large numbers from Tambov, and the players themselves were constantly on the road. This was especially noticeable in the summer of 2020, when, after a pandemic pause, the Russian championship was played out in an extremely short time with a tight calendar of two rounds a week.
“We played on June 28, July 1 and 4,” striker Vladimir Obukhov, who played for Tambov, told Izvestia at the time. – And the match with Akhmat on July 7 is ahead. Just two days to rest, and again the game. “Zenith” before us had five days off, and we have only two. Spartak has three days, and we have two. Very difficult. We play in Nizhny Novgorod with Akhmat. Then we take a bus and go to Tambov. From there take a bus to Tula. The logistics are very difficult. “Tambov” does not have the finances to safely fly to the field. You have to move like this.
Under these conditions, Tambov managed to retain a place in the Premier League in 2020, having the smallest budget among all the participants in the tournament. As Olga Konovalova told Izvestia in December last year, total for the 2019/20 season, it amounted to 748 million rubles. The club earned 160 million by itself, and 588 million were allocated by the regional sports department as a subsidy. Moreover, an amount of 500 million was initially allocated, but due to the pandemic and the postponement of the last eight rounds, it increased by 88 million.
It is noteworthy that in the struggle for survival “Tambov” outstripped two very rich by the standards of the bottom of the club table. That year, Orenburg with a budget of 1.3 billion rubles and Samara’s Krylya Sovetov with a budget of 2.2 billion rubles flew from the RPL to the FNL.
According to Olga Konovalova, for the 2020/21 season, the expenditure part of 680 million rubles was allocated. Izvestia has a letter dated June 15, 2020 signed by Mikhail Belousov addressed to the head of the licensing department of the RFU Evgeny Letin that for the development of physical culture and sports in the Tambov region, budgetary allocations of more than 1 billion rubles for the fiscal 2020 and more than 900 million rubles for the fiscal 2021 are provided.
Of these, 458.8 million rubles in the form of subsidies were planned to be allocated to support non-governmental non-profit organizations in the field of physical culture and sports, one of which is FC Tambov. At the time of publication, it was not possible to receive comments from representatives of the administration of the Tambov region and the regional department for physical culture and sports.
Wherein no agreements on subsidies were signed between the club and the regional sports leadership. After retaining the registration in the RPL in the summer of 2020 the team’s footballers and coaches were at the reception of the then Governor of the Tambov Region, Alexander Nikitin. According to the players, he congratulated the team on staying in the elite and promised to secure funding.
“Nikitin headed the region since 2015, and it was then that his first governor’s term of five years was coming to an end,” a source who worked at that time in the regional government told Izvestia. – And on the eve of the elections, I decided to “promote” on the team, which, despite all the difficulties, managed to solve the problem of maintaining a residence permit in the RPL. As soon as elections were held in September and Nikitin was re-elected for a new five-year term, interest in the club disappeared.
Since the fall of 2020, according to Khudyakov and Konovalova, the regional leadership has stopped communicating. Soon the president of “Tambov” and the deputy governor of the Tambov region Arsen Gabuev resigned. According to a source in the then regional government, he had a conflict with another first deputy governor, Oleg Ivanov, who wanted to seize control of the club. Pavel Khudyakov as the main ideologist of Tambov and one of its founders, together with another founder, Andrei Safronov, supported Gabuev. And all three of them, at the suggestion of Ivanov, were denied access to Nikitin, who trusted his first deputy.
Photo: FC “Tambov”
At the end of 2020, Olga Konovalova told Izvestia that the club’s total debts were about 400 million rubles. It included debts in taxes, salaries and bonus players, coaches and employees. In winter, there was a risk that Tambov would withdraw from the RPL competition during the season, which would be the first time in the almost 30-year history of the top division of the Russian football championship.
As a result, the RFU and RPL, with the help of advance payments on TV, helped “Tambov” to finish the tournament with a heavily truncated composition. All 11 matches were lost after the winter break. After that, the football club ordered to live long.
“Oleg Ivanov’s influence on the Tambov disaster is very great,” a source in the club told Izvestia. – Khudyakov and Safronov made their mistakes. Perhaps they did not conduct the purest financial activity, but let the investigation and the court understand this. But the then leadership of the region did not fulfill the promises made to the club. It was unrealistic for Tambov to survive without their support, like any other club in our football.
On October 4, 2021, Alexander Nikitin submitted an application for the early resignation of his powers as the Governor of the Tambov Region. It was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. A few weeks later, Oleg Ivanov left his post. On October 7, Nikitin became a member of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.
At the time of publication, Izvestia was unable to obtain comments from Alexander Nikitin, Oleg Ivanov, Arsen Gabuev and Andrey Safronov. Official accusations against Khudyakov as of the evening of November 24 were also not made public.
— “Tambov” was not the worst club in the history of Russian football, but it became another organization that could not survive in the conditions of budget funding, – the former president of Moscow “Lokomotiv” Nikolai Naumov shared his opinion with “Izvestia”… – There are more and more of them in recent years. Unfortunately, in our football, it has not been possible to build a system in which clubs can independently keep afloat and survive the deprivation of budgetary funding without serious consequences.
After leaving Tambov, Pavel Khudyakov worked as a sports director at the Krasnodar Kuban, which plays in the FNL. He left office in October. The former head coach of Tambov, Sergei Pervushin, also worked there for several months, who managed to save the team from being relegated from the RPL in 2020.