The discussion focused on measures for expanding football infrastructure, including through federal targeted programmes, and will discuss the formation of new financing sources and the development of professional football in Russia, including ways to increase income from spectator numbers at matches.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good evening,
Unfortunately, the weather did not allow us to look at the facilities being built today in Samara, including the football arena, but the governor will speak after me, and he will talk about the progress of the work there.
First of all, I want to thank the Council’s working group for the materials it prepared. They prepared everything taking into account various positions and opinions, and naturally, this approach is always the most effective.
As we agreed at the last meeting, the topic of today’s Council meeting is football. We will look into issues related to the World Cup, which will be held in Russia in 2018, and most importantly, discuss issues of developing football in Russia.
This is the most popular and widespread sport in our country: over 2.5 million people play football. However, our national team does not often have big, bright successes. Its greatest achievements were winning the European Cup in 1960 and the Olympics in 1956 and 1988.
In recent history, it took third place at the European championships in 2008 and 2015, and second place for the youth national team at the European championship. Russia has never been a world champion, and it has not qualified for the Olympic Games since 1992 – not once since 1992! Some club teams have seen serious success in European tournaments in recent years. But we understand that bringing in foreign specialists and foreign players played a role here.
I repeat: Russians love and value football and play it from a young age on. It has, of course, received government attention and private investor support as well. This means that the problem lies in the football management system itself, in organising the selection and training for promising youngsters, methods and forms of work with coaches and players. Today, I suggest we discuss measures necessary to change the state of affairs.
Obviously, we need a clear, adequate programme of action, and in this respect, I suggest drafting a national strategy for football development through to 2030. Of course, we need to prepare and perform well in 2018. Increasing the number of people playing football should be among our priorities, as well as improving the performance of our football players at major international events, including the 2018 World Cup, as I already said.
We should set corresponding goals at the federal, regional and local level, create partnerships with public organisations and businesses, form a common research and methodology space and effective system for improving coach qualifications – first and foremost, for children’s coaches, of whom we simply do not have enough.
One of the working group’s suggestions is to create large national centres for developing football: they should include football academies that train the nearest reserve, and provide activities for children and youth sports schools that specialise in football.
However, grassroots sports remain the foundation for everything, the most important resource for developing football. We should give particular attention to improving the system of youth and children’s amateur tournaments such as “The Leather Ball,” as well as encourage and support children’s interest in football as a way of active, healthy recreation, and create the necessary infrastructure.
The situation with constructing football fields is improving, incidentally, thanks in part to the work of the Sports Ministry, but their number is still insufficient. I support the working group’s recommendations to include a Football sub-programme in the federal targeted programme for developing physical culture and sport for 2016–2020, which would focus on constructing open access fields for grassroots football.
Professional tournaments also require attention. I already mentioned the success of many clubs, but we also see some evident problems: non-transparent actions from the part of football agents, some strange transfers, a large number of foreign players that close the door for our own fledgling players, and moreover, payments to players comparable to those for leading national championships in Europe.
Unfortunately, the athletic competition between football clubs sometimes turns into wallet wars. I already said at a meeting –either in this composition or similar one – that it’s not even about sports; it’s a competition of someone’s ambitions. And yet, many clubs are financed through regional budgets, using a significant part of the resources allocated locally for overall sports and physical culture.
Still, football is earning money throughout the world, and it is doing so on its own: through the sales of broadcasting, advertising, merchandising rights, and using other ways. I am asking the Sports Ministry to provide specific suggestions to create a clear and adequate system for professional football clubs’ financial activities. Incidentally, in order to improve financial transparency in many sports federations, we have created supervisory councils that include respected, responsible public figures and business representatives who truly care about sports. Part of their responsibilities will involve monitoring the effective use of funding – both public and private. This is certainly important at all times, but is especially important today.
Another topic requiring our attention concerns football game attendance. I will not go into the details now – you know how many problems this entails. Fans, especially those with children, are sometimes simply afraid to go to the stadium. But we have discussed these problems more than once, met with representatives from fans’ associations, yet in practice, little has been done to date. We are seeing a similar situation in many areas associated with attendance.
I want to once again point out the need for a full set of measures to resolve safety problems. Arenas where most of the illegal situations occur should be equipped with effective video surveillance systems. The Ministry of the Interior, Sports Ministry and competition organisers need to determine procedures for identifying concrete violations of the law.
And finally, we must work on the so-called near-football environment more actively and substantively. We won’t get civilised fans if we use only fines and limitations. I am asking the relevant departments not to delay making a decision on these issues – this is also important with regard to the upcoming World Cup. It is exceedingly important how we appear to football fans across the planet.
Before the Council meeting, we already discussed the situation pertaining to the construction and renovation of sports infrastructure. There are some problems with nearly all facilities, but we observed the most serious problems at the stadium in Kaliningrad: the backlog there must be eliminated as quickly as possible.
Here, I want to once again appeal to regional leaders: I am asking you to give your utmost attention to all issues in preparing for the World Cup. I am talking not only about renovating stadiums, but also about creating modern infrastructure that should serve the regions’ socioeconomic development for many years to come, and largely determine their tourism and investment appeal, as well as simply improving people’s quality of life.
And another important thing: we all see that people’s interest in sports is increasing and how the active lifestyle culture is forming and gaining popularity in Russia. This is extremely important, all this needs to be supported and developed, including through the use of the potential of popular sports, like football, and large-scale competitions. Our Council will always pay serious attention to this work, and I suggest we use our next meeting to address the issues of developing hockey in Russia and training the national team for the 2018 Olympic Games in Korea.
Let’s begin our discussion.