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Taylor awaits East arising

Published: Friday 6 May 2005, 12.00CET
English expert Dr Rogan Taylor hopes that football in eastern Europe can rise again.
Published: Friday 6 May 2005, 12.00CET

Taylor awaits East arising

English expert Dr Rogan Taylor hopes that football in eastern Europe can rise again.

By Pawel Dimow

Director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool, Dr Rogan Taylor's views on football carry plenty of weight in his native England. A respected author, and pioneer of the first-ever masters degree in football administration, he has also advised the English Football Association.

Eastern expertise
However, his expertise extends far beyond the English football scene, and he recently addressed students at the University of Economics in Krakow, Poland, to share his views on the state of football in central and eastern Europe - which he still believes to have been the cradle of the modern football team.

Spawning ground
"Everybody who knows the history of the modern football knows that central Europe gave birth to it," Dr Taylor told "The Austrian 'Wunderteam' in the late 1920s and early 1930s and the Hungarian 'Golden Team' of the early 1950s." However, those years of plenty have long since passed.

Improbable achievements
The footballing scene has been transformed by the collapse of communism, as Dr Taylor was only too aware. He said: "[FC] Steaua [Bucuresti] and [FK] Crvena Zvezda won the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1986 and 1991 but now it is almost impossible for the clubs from this region to repeat this achievement.

Old regime
"Under the communist regimes in central and eastern Europe everything was geared towards giving a better chance to the national team and helping local clubs to compete at international level," he added. "The best players were not allowed to leave or needed to face many difficulties if they wanted to play abroad."

Financial realities
The opposite is now true. Clubs are only too keen to ship players abroad as they seek the transfer fees that will keep them afloat. And as Dr Taylor said, some of the unfortunate leftovers from the collapsed communist regimes continue to blight clubs' chances of keeping pace with their opponents in the west.

Structural problems
"The eastern European countries have only recently become democracies and free markets," he said. "Leftovers from the old system remain including the ownership of stadiums by city councils. That means that it is very difficult to develop the stadium as a commercial business.

Corrupt practices
"Ownership of clubs and players are sometimes connected to criminal elements and that means that outsiders are put off from doing business," he added, continuing: "Hooliganism and racism are growing problems too. They make it difficult for the football clubs to attract new fans."

Television markets
The relative weakness of the TV markets outside western Europe are also widening the gap between Europe's haves and have-nots. "The big clubs from the big TV markets in Western Europe earn the big money and buy the best players," said Dr Taylor. "In England we call it a 'vicious circle'."

Catching up
However, Dr Taylor did not see the situation in central and eastern Europe as being hopeless. Indeed, he believed that - with the development of the broadcasting markets in the region - clubs in the east would eventually have the chance to catch up, and that some would do so sooner than others.

Positive signs
The continued success of Russian and Ukrainian clubs in the UEFA Champions League - in particular FC Dynamo Kyiv, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Lokomotiv Moskva and PFC CSKA Moskva - was a sure-fire sign that money is circulating in eastern European football.

Buying clubs
"The big oil money in Russia and Ukraine will make the local clubs more competitive," said Dr Taylor. "Instead of being selling clubs they will become buying ones."

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