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KHL Marketing vice president: “CHL lacked professionalism”

KHL Marketing vice president:

KHL Marketing vice president: “CHL lacked professionalism” (Photo © IIHF)

On November 25th, the official KHL-TV program “Ledoviy Kontinent” examined the reasons behind Champions Hockey League’s failure through an interview to KHL Marketing department vice-president Ilya Kochevrin, who claimed that the main problem was the lack of professionalism. He also stated that he still hopes to work on a joint solution with the IIHF to resurrect the competition.

RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation:

Dmitri Derunets: We are now going to talk about the Champions’ league prospects. What’s your opinion about the project?
Ilya Kochevrin: This is a complicated question. There is a part of the question which is prerogative of KHL president, but as one of the persons who contributed to the CHL’s first season I can see the following.
The Champions’ League is of course an interesting creation. Such a project is good both for teams and for spectators. There were interesting results and the stadiums were constantly filled, but the commercial part didn’t really work. And without a proper commercialization, the project is doomed to die.
The first season was on the one hand hard, but on the other end simpler than the second, which didn’t exist. Any new project attracts interest and attention. The basic investors of the program, mostly being Gazprom and Swedish company Lundin, submitted a budget of more than 20 million euro, and such a budget simply has to bring some results, considering also that the companies signed a three years deal with an option for the fourth. In principle the conditions were interesting, but then the development stalled, in my opinion, when IIHF insisted for the participation of the Ovation company, which demonstrated absolute incapacity in building marking strategies and selling rights. They did a good job with the competition’s organization, but that is only 10% of a league’s success. The basic task is building a good product for the buyers. Nowadays a competition can’t really work without a good commercialization. The situation with football isn’t a good comparison. There it’s easy to pay huge money as there will be great dividends with the Champions’ League, in hockey no one is going to put money everywhere as there are no dividends. As a result, the first season was a success from the point of view of the competition, but from a commercial point of view it was a complete disaster.

And what was the true problem?
I would say that the problem was the lack of professionalism.

Do professionals capable to build a good commercial project exist in the hockey world?
I would simply say that such people aren’t related to hockey. You know, it’s time to stop thinking about the different kind of sports. There are specific questions, yes, but any project like that shares 90% of the required management. The most important question is how to structure a project and how to realize it in practice. Everyone loves hockey, but without money nothing can be created.

And what about the presence of these persons in IIHF’s management.
We aren’t talking about IIHF. IIHF is a public organization with a different structure. Their task is to organize competitions. They managed to put themselves in a good position with the Champions’ League as all the responsibilities were on the investors. They obtained fixed money from this project and of course they could have used them for their own benefits.

Let’s talk about Ovation’s role.
Well, we tried to get an agreement with them, but it’s not easy as in the European right there are no mercy terms, only something like: “you will get these money”. I can say that Ovation made a new proposal with two investors, which couldn’t confirm their actual participation. And the proposed financial project had a prize lowered by two times, but the money that Ovation would get would have been even more than the first year. Add to that, that the competition’s expenses are indeed big, the final money wouldn’t be interesting for the teams.

Don’t you plan to further try to resurrect the Champions’ League?
We examined this possibility, it’s interesting and I can tell you that IIHF told us that they would be interested in continuing working together to unite the champions of the different countries in an unique competition. But there must be two conditions: the league must be created by professional people and the money thrown in must be well balanced, especially if we consider nowadays financial problems of European hockey. I’m not going to say that Russian hockey is better than European, but generally speaking I think that European teams are in a big economical crisis, they couldn’t buy any new player and thus talking about their possibility of sustaining a loaded budget would be incorrect.

Does the IIHF understand these problems?
I think yes. I consider Rene Fasel a true professional, he knows what’s going on. Hopefully he’ll approach a solution with less rush than the original project, which started in a very difficult period for the economy. We hope that in one way or another we will find a joint solution.

Igor Broslavetz contributed to this article

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