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Rubles & More Rubles....Why The Russian Premier League is Moving to a Winter Schedule


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The Russian league currently runs from March through November, but all that is going to change...

It's still being discussed, but apparently starting in the 2011 season the Russian Premier League will align its season with the majority of other European leagues and operate on a Winter schedule (Aug-May).

Why the Change...?

Well the official line from the Russian Premier League bosses is that by aligning with the other European leagues, it will enter European competitions under the same conditions as teams from other leagues. You can make the argument that Russian teams in these competitions (and international competitions) are at a disadvantage to other European teams because their current season starts in March, which is at the same time most other European teams are hitting their peak. They are blaming this on why the Russian teams don't fare well in the later rounds of European competitions or international matches.

It makes some sense.

However, that is not the real reason.

The real reason is because all of the Russian teams make the majority of their revenues from television rights contracts and from sponsorships. Not from the stadium gate. And you can expect an increase in both the tv rights contracts and sponsorships if the Russian Premier League ran on a winter schedule rather than during the summer.

Why Would They Make More Money with a Winter Schedule...?

It's the same reason why a new season of television shows on the BBC or Sky aren't introduced during the Summer. Because nobody's home. Everybody is enjoying the weather and is away from the living room.

With a Winter schedule they get a captive audience. And with a captive audience comes:

(1)
many many more subscribers

(2)
and higher advertising prices for commercials, etc...

(not to mention that the service provider can likely charge the customer more)

For example, it's just like on Sky. Generally speaking, during the Winter months, advertisers like Coca Cola will pay more for a commercial during "24" than they would during the Summer months. Why? Because more people are likely seeing the commercial while they are cooped up in their homes during the Winter.

Why did They Decide to Go Forward with This Plan Now, When It's been Talked About Since 2005...?

Money Money Money... The current TV rights contract for the Russian Premier League is up at the end of the 2010 season.

Who is Going to be Against This Plan...?

The Russian supporters who attend the matches obviously. But guess what.. they are the only ones who will oppose this move. It's a win for everyone else involved.

What those supporters don't understand just like the majority of futbol fans who attend matches in England/France/Spain/Italy/etc... is that the time of Big Media has entered the realm of futbol.

Futbol Clubs would rather take a higher margin dollar from a subscriber via a tv set or from a corporate sponsor than they would from some lifelong supporter in the stadium who brings with them lower profit margins and higher-risk. Welcome to the 21st century European sports fans.... Get used to it cause it's only going to get worse.

Based on Precedent It's Difficult to Say How Much a New TV Contract could be Worth to the League, but a Fair Starting-Point is £20-25M Per Year

Back in 2007, NTV (which is owned by Gazprom) purchased the exclusive rights to broadcast live futbol matches on a pay-per-view basis. It was a 4 season deal worth $100M (£65M back then). Considering that every match was watched on average by 250K people minimum, it was a decent deal for NTV.....and for the Russian Premier League teams too.

However.....Then the shady stuff started happening...

Putin, who was well aware of the deal and whose buddy runs Gazprom (which again owns NTV) stuck his nose in and said that he was displeased that "simple fans" wouldn't be able to watch soccer for free.

His decision was that all live matches from the Russian Premier League were to be broadcast free for the 2008 season. Who knows what happened to the $25M that the League was supposed to get for that year. It's likely collecting interest in a Swiss bank account as I type this.

Anyway...Throw some sort of multiplier on that previous deal and a new deal could easily be 4 years for $125-150M (£75-100M). Not bad for all involved.Those are the types of numbers that we are talking about for a TV deal for the League from the likes of ESPN or Sky. Even those numbers might be a stretch, but it's a starting point.

Just So We Understand Why the League, the Broadcasters, and Advertisers are Licking Their Chops... Here's Some Simple Math

  • 100,000 :
    This is the total number of spectators who attend Russian Premier League games any given weekend.

  • 250,000 :
    This is the MINIMUM number of people who watch any 1 match on TV any given weekend

  • 2,000,000 :
    This is the MIMINUM number of people who watch all 8 of the matches on TV any given weekend

  • 20 to 1 :
    This is the MINIMUM ratio between those who watch the matches on TV and those who attend

This 20 to 1 ratio is abysmally low compared to other leagues in Europe. Why...? Because it's during the Summer. Move this league to a Winter schedule (Aug-May) and I bet the the first year you see a doubling of that ratio. Then throw some marketing dollars behind it and who knows where it could go.

THAT is the opportunity that the Russian Premier League and the broadcasters and advertisers are excited about.

It will be interesting to see if ESPN or Sky make a play @ Russia or if they just deem working with Putin to be toxic.

In Case You were Wondering About the Average Attendances in Russia, Here's a Look :

(sorry, but I had to limit this to 11 images)

Check out the stands in these pictures. These depict average attendances.

Russian Premier League 2009

Average Attendance - 12,517

1. Rubin Kazan
(63pts)

Avg. Attendance
- 14,726

City Size
-
1,10
5,
000

Stadium
- Central Stadium

Stadium Capacity
- 30,000

f0f9fd232ae791157da811fb2015d988.jpg

2. Spartak Moskva
(55pts)

Avg
. - 25,253

City Size
-
15,000,000

Stadium
- Luzhniki

Capacity
- 84,745

(same as CSKA's stadium, except double the crowds)

3. Zenit Saint-Petersburg
(54pts)
Avg
. - 18,910

City Size
-
5,600,000

Stadium
- Petrovsky Stadium

Capacity
- 21,725

23.jpg

4. Lokomotiv Moskva
(54pts)

Avg
. - 15,288

City Size
-
15,000,000

Stadium
- Lokomotiv Stadium

Capacity
- 28,800

loko_ks08_%286%29.jpg

5. CSKA Moskva
(52pts)

Avg
. - 13,687

City Size
-
15,000,000

Stadium
- Luzhniki

Capacity
- 84,745

06.jpg

6. FK Moskva
(48pts)

Avg
. - 4,940

City Size
-
15,000,000

Stadium
- Streltsov Stadium

Capacity
- 13,200

02.jpg

7. Saturn Moskva
(45pts)

Avg
. - 7,173

City Size
-
15,000,000

Stadium
- Saturn Stadium

Capacity
- 16,726

(think Brunton Park)

8. Dynamo Moskva
(42pts)

Avg
. - 7,752

City Size
-
15,000,000

Stadium
- Dynamo Stadium

Capacity
- 36,540

(lame stadium with zero crowds)

9. Tom Tomsk
(41pts)

Avg
. - 11,833

City Size
-
500,000

Stadium
- Trud Stadium

Capacity
- 15,000

2936.jpg

10. Kryliya Sovetov
(36pts)

Avg
. - 15,873

City Size
-
1,160,000

Stadium
- Metallurg Stadium

Capacity
- 33,220

img.cgi?800,20080964

11. Spartak Nalchik
(35pts)

Avg
. - 9,793

City Size
-
275,000

Stadium
- Spartak Stadium

Capacity
- 14,400

(the size of The County Ground in Swindon)

12. Terek Grozny
(33pts)

Avg
. - 8,020

City Size
-
200,000

Stadium
- Sultan Bilimkhanov

Capacity
- 10,200

(the size of Crewe Alexandra's stadium)

13. Amkar Perm
(33pts)

Avg
. - 12,073

City Size
-
1,000,000

Stadium
- Zvezda Stadium

Capacity
- 19,500

33.jpg

14. Rostov
(32pts)

Avg
. - 11,597

City Size
-
1,100,000

Stadium
- Olimp-2

Capacity
- 30,000

FC+Rubin+Kazan+v+FK+Rostov+Na+Donu+Russian+AaIDzYFKJxHl.jpg

15. Kuban
(28pts)

Avg
. - 18,467

City Size
-
650,000

Stadium
- Kuban Stadium

Capacity
- 32,000

(relegated)

16. FC Khimki
(10pts)

Avg
. - 4,881

City Size
-
185,000

Stadium
- Arena Khimki

Capacity
- 18,000

(trust me, it's empty)

Anyway.... 3 takeaways from looking @ that those are:

1.
Nobody attends these matches (even for the likes of Zenit or Spartak or CSKA)

2.
Any spectator will freeze their *** off in those stadiums during the dead of winter

3.
The vast majority of those stadiums are antiquated by any modern measure. No heating systems for the pitches let alone the stands. Completely open to the elements.

And if All That wasn't Bad Enough, Check Out the Current Weather Where Newly Promoted Sibir Novosibirsk is Located :

Sibir.jpg

That's the exact temperature at the same time that a handful of EPL games kicked off today.

Their 12,500 seat stadium was built in 1927 and has no covering whatsoever.

Aside:

I ripped the format of the stadium photos from an architecture website that I saw that deals with the design of stadiums.

Another Aside:

I can see that it could potentially be a problem to recruit good players to play there during a notorious Russian Winter. One could argue that over time it would mean a degradation of the League as a whole. I don't think it will come to that. I think the revenue opportunity for the players will far outweigh any frostbite, not to mention that the schedule won't be all that bad (i.e. they'll take the dead of winter off just like they do in Germany)

.

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Re: Russian Premier League to Move to Winter Schedule... Why the Change? More Money

Absolutely fantastic stuff Johnny, once again. The main thing I take from all of this is that the conditions for the fans are going to be ridiculous. There is no way I would want to be watching a game in -35 degrees heat (or lack thereof), so the attendances are going to suffer even more than they already do. And surely this new schedule will lead to a heck of a lot more postponements in all these extreme conditions? I'm sure it will make the Winter chill that we have experienced over Christmas here in the UK to be somewhat of a heatwave.

If they do end up going for it, I can see them reverting to the original schedule sooner, rather than later because it just doesn't seem practical. Once again, the business beats the sport.

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Re: Rubles & More Rubles....Why The Russian Premier League is Moving to a Winter Sche

As Far as the Actual Schedule Goes....

As far as the schedule goes, the RPL has A LOT of leeway with which to work. The playing conditions won't be as bad as you would initially think.

1. For starters, the current Russian schedule only consists of 30 matches per regular season. This is by far the lowest of any of the top leagues in Europe. Here are the Top-10 European leagues by UEFA rank (in order) with their regular season match totals:

  • 38 England

  • 38 Spain

  • 38 Italy

  • 34 Germany

  • 38 France

  • 30 Russia

  • 30 Ukraine

  • 34 Netherlands

  • 34 Romania

  • 30 Portugal

2. They will likely mimic the Bundesliga schedule. They will be able to arrange the schedule such that Russian league matches will not be scheduled from the middle of Dec thru the middle of Jan. There are no European competitions during this time, so they won't have to worry about that. When early February rolls around and conditions are tough, they can do the same thing that they do in the Bundesliga, paint the lines on the pitch florescent orange and use an orange ball if they have to.

3. If the Bundesliga can fit 34 games into the same amount of time, certainly the RPL can easily fit in 30, (even allowing for postponements).

____

IMO, this schedule change just ISN'T going to be that much a negative for the players or their performances. There is FAR more upside to changing the schedule to Aug-May to coincide with the rest of Europe.

.

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