FC Rostov Miodrag Bozovic

The Wise and Bittersweet Exit of the Count

6:55 PMAleks Vee

Miodrag Bozovic resigns from FC Rostov amid the club's financial dilemmas

If you've ever seen contestants walk away on 'Millionaire', you've probably wondered whether or not they should have. They came to gamble, after all, and after making it through to Round Two, there's no harm in wanting to live a little. Then comes the stumper. The contestant frantically digs within his mind for the slightest hint, but to no avail. He or she must come to terms with a reality that's quite different from when the game began.
Bozovic's Final Answer. Illustration © 2014 AleksVArts.

The same thing can be said about Miodrag Bozovic's resignation as manager of FC Rostov, where the reality has become a most negative one. Although his leaving may be attributed to Rostov's crashing out of the Europa League and 1/16 of the Russian Cup, there are other factors that have undoubtedly influenced his decision. It's a greater loss for Rostov than it is for Bozovic; the club will have great difficulty finding a decent manager whose salary demands will fit their depleted budget.

Part of Rostov's dilemma can be traced back to the pre-season conflict with the Russian Football Union (RFU), the latter refusing to grant the club a license to play in Europe due to an alleged breach of financial fair play regulations. At the same time, RFU president Nikolai Tolstykh admitted he was aware of complaints from the club's players concerning debts since 2009, while choosing to punish the team at a very specific moment - right after they won the 2013/14 Russian Cup, their first major trophy in 84 years. The Cup gave Rostov a spot in the UEFA Europa League play-off round. The club successfully appealed to the SAC (Sporting Arbitration Court) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and were granted the right to participate in this season's Europa League competition. Had the appeal been denied, Spartak Moscow, who finished 6th last season, would have been given the coveted UEL spot.

Since then, most, if not all, games featuring Rostov have had questionable refereeing decisions directed towards the side. The refereeing, along with the club's accumulated debts, has yielded poor results, unmotivated players, and ultimately, the head coach's exit.

As many an influential person has already said, Tolstykh's approach to the problem was uncalled-for; any legal issues should be settled among the appropriate persons, and certainly shouldn't affect the coach or the performance of his players.

Putting aside a rather cold and unforgiving RFU pres., we turn our attention to a problematic club management. "All of Rostov's current problems are only due to the lack of funding," said ex-Spartak Moscow president Andrei Chervichenko in an interview with Gazeta.ru. "The coaching staff, manager, and players are all excellent. Unfortunately, money rules almost everything these days, and in this regard, Rostov is far behind the other clubs in the Premier League." Unlike clubs with big corporate sponsors, FC Rostov is funded by the club's city; since March, its title sponsor has been an electrical distributor that is part of the TNS Energy Group. However, players have also received sums in addition to their contract from grants issued by a regional foundation for the promotion of sport. Such a model potentially allowed the club to dodge taxes, as well as to accustom its players to lavish salaries. Nevertheless, FC Rostov's vice president claimed the foundation has been inoperative since 2006.

Chervichenko has alleged that much of the city's budget has been going to Ukrainian refugees who have settled there. According to a recent article, however, the Russian government has been allocating money from the federal budget specifically for the purpose of aiding the refugees who have fled to Rostov and other regions of Russia. Many of the Ukrainian refugees who had settled in the Rostov region have begun returning as peace is restored in Eastern Ukraine. The question, then, is where the rest of Rostov's budget has been going. It is evident that certain portions of money - namely, those set aside to fund the football club - are not ending up where they should.

Thus, we wind up with a manager who is unable to sign new players and is limited to a partly stale, apathetic roster. Bozovic is a rare breed of manager for whom football is about the game and not the money. Unfortunately, there are few people in football that are like him.

Bozovic's exit from Rostov was like a contestant with no lifelines walking away on Millionaire. He walks a Russian Cup winner and Super Cup runner-up, and without potentially tarnishing his managerial record with a sacking or relegation. He has done all he could, and upon realizing that he cannot affect a situation beyond his control, walks, not away from, but towards a new opportunity to do what's in his power as a football manager. Whether that will entail saving another team from relegation, or stabilizing a side in the middle of the table, the Count will undoubtedly begin his new adventure "with too high a spirit to be encumbered" by the blunders and absurdities of everyday life, and will continue to leave his mark in the history of football.

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