Otar Abdushelishvili - The man who has occupied one of the prominent places in among brilliant patriots
The history of our country counts the whole breadth of state and public figures, real heroes, thinkers or just decent human beings. Otar Abdushelishvili is among such prominent ones. The freedom-loving man who could not be the follower of the totalitarian age, regime propaganda and ideology in the common narrative of the Soviet Union. The person who lived with audacity and pride, patriotism, intellectual analysis and acted with high citizenship goal with the view of loving his motherland. The person who, even in those hopeless 90ies never gave up and adapt to the chaotic rules. He loved with gratitude and lived in a way which would have been desirable for God.
Mr. Abdushelishvili, as the man living his life with dignity, tremendous love towards his family, was distinguished with his personal relations as well. High moral traditions, calm and balanced nature with noble manly behavior were deeply rooted in his personality.
Without exaggeration I would like to note that it is impossible to get familiarized with his life and not feel how special he was. He had his goals and knew that he would have to achieve them. He was the source of great motivation, a progressive, purposeful and uncompromising manager. The patriot of his country always praying for it, the distinguished public figure who occupies one of the prominent places among brilliant fellow countrymen.
Otar Abdushelishvili was born on September 21, 1941 in the family of a teacher. He spent his youth in the oldest part of his country. In 1958 he successfully finished secondary school N 5 in Poty and in the same year started studying at the Poty port repair workshop first as an apprentice and then as an electric-metal worker. In 1959 he started studying at the Politechnic Institute of Georgia which he graduated with the specialism of chemical technology of plastic masses. Then he worked for one year at Poty large-scale bakery as a technologist and in 1966 his maritime life starts. He became the master of Poty Ocean Fishery division fish fleet production on long-distance ships and then moved to the position of the assistant of the ship captain for demonstrating hard work and special skills in the field of fishing. From 1986 he was approinted as the head of the department of fish processing and selling of the same division and in parallel manner fulfilled the duties of the head of fish production on fish-catching ships. He has been granted numerous awards and gratitude dimplomas for efficient management of the fish catching process.
The most active years of his activities start from 1971 when he was moved to Tbilisi at the position of the engineer of the division of ocean fish catching of the Georgian Socialist Republic. In the same year he was enrolled in the Astrakhan technical institute of industry and economy and finished its faculty of technology of fish products in 1975. In the process of workihg he has been granted state awards for successfully meeting the objectives of the state plan of fish production and efficient organization of the production process. Since 1975 he has been appointed as the head of production division of the same department. He was granted gratitude for efficient organization of the operation of the workshop of Poty fish factory, which significantly improved meeting the objectives of the fishing season.
Since 1975 he was transferred to Tbilisi and appointed as the director of the fourth refrigerator where he demonstrated efficient skills of the manager and entrepreneur in various fields.
Then ministry of trade of Georgia granted numerous certificates of gratitudes to him for efficient management. He achieved a lot of success in the field of effective organization of the system of civil protection of production. He was given gratitude by the civil defence management annually for achieved success and maintaining good condition of the sites of the civil defence system, their constant readiness for urgent situations, providing workers with protection means, storing chemical substances in shelters accordingly well and providing high quality work, exemplary discipline and fulfilling the general plan well.
In 1975 he was transferred to the position of the managing deputy head - chief engineer of the “Georgian Fish Production and Selling” union of the Soviet Republic of Georgia where he worked until 1992. He demonstrated his top management skills here as well. It was under his supervision that fish storing refrigerators for tinned food were constructed in various regional centres of Georgia. He was the initiator of many innovations in technical processes. As a result of famous events of 1992 the division was reorganized, sites changed into joint-stock companies and, as a result, he resigned.
In 1985 he went through numeous courses at the management institute of state people’s economy of Georgia and prepared work on modern management methods in production organizations in terms of planning and organizing modern management methods using economic-mathematical methods and computer science.
In 1994 the “Saktevzi” concern was established and he was elected as its president. Later on, this service was reorganized and Otari was transferred to the newly-created fish economy department as the head of the fish economy department where he worked until 2002.
For the significant contribution to the field he was awarded with the Order of Honor in 2002 after which he stepped down from the position and spent the rest of the period in his beloved village of Gorisa in Sachkhere region where he maintained agricultural activities.
When people like Otar Abdushelishvili pass away to rest in peace, the universe gets devastated for a while and this very moment gets fixed in our memory as the true one which helps us to recall personal relations in which joy and pain are of equal value. Afterwards, everything gets back to normal, the world which is much more massive than all of us, suddenly gets filled up and continues to exist.
Sometimes, in relations both sides simply consider that they have obigations towards one another. However, this is the lucky case when I am proud that I knew the person who was indeed distinguished with his joyful nature, internal culture, tact, elevated thought and brilliant intellect.
Today is the day to commemorate Otar Abdushelishvili. He was unmatched with his way of life – similar to Pavarotti in the field of culture and I urge everyone to light candles for him. A real state and public figure, a husband, an uncle, a grandfather, a brother, a real professional, an elderly friend and just a decent human being has passed away to rest in peace. We will all miss his wise pieces of advice and positive atmosphere. May him rest in peace.
Ukrainian football, which managed to survive shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, embarked on a new model of development beginning from the 2000s. The start of the new millennium in Ukrainian football was marked by wealthy businessmen and oligarchs buying or gaining control over the clubs, thereby reflecting the developments that had been occurring in the socio-political and economic life of the country.
Ukrainian football has become a favourite toy of Ukrainian oligarchs. On the one hand, it gave a short-term boost to football with the impression of a flourishing future; but, on the other hand, it has led to disastrous consequences, with many clubs ceasing to exist, a reducing in the number of clubs able to perform in the national tournament, the Premier League, and huge fall in attendances at games, among other things. So, when you see football declining, this means oligarchs have less money than before.
"OLIGARCHIZATION" OF UKRAINIAN FOOTBALL
In the early 1990s, Dynamo Kyiv, the most decorated Ukrainian football club, came under the control of Hryhoriy Surkis, a Ukrainian businessman and politician, and then passed to his younger brother, Ihor Surkis. Rinat Akhmetov, reportedly the richest man in Ukraine, laid his hands on Shakhtar Donetsk FC carrying his team to the biggest success in the history of Ukrainian football in independent times -- victory in the 2007/2008 UEFA CUP tournament.
Other oligarchs have taken the path of these two: Oleksandr Yaroslavskiy, a Kharkiv-based business tycoon, bought Metalist FC from the same city; Ihor Kolomoyskiy, one of the most scandalous oligarchs, became the owner of Dnipro FC, while allegedly keeping the financial influence over the Kryvbas (Kryviy Rih), Volyn (Lutsk) and Arsenal (Kyiv) football clubs. Other clubs have also fallen under the control of oligarchs. Petro Dyminskiy, a Lviv-based businessman, became the president of Karpaty (Lviv), Kostiantyn Zhevaho, a Ukrainian billionaire, became sponsor of Vorskla (Poltava), Yevhen Heller, a businessman and former MP, started financing Zorya (Luhansk), etc.
Because of this, football has turned into a game of oligarchic nature, with clubs playing the role of toys in the hands of business tycoons and being overwhelmingly dependent on the financial injections of their owners.
Such a state of play reflects developments within the country. The oligarchic and clannish model that has been prevailing in Ukraine's economic and socio-political life has moved to national football. Clubs have become a tool to "do a little muscle-flexing" and play political games between competing rivals. Moreover, they also served, in some cases, as a source to partially legalize revenues invested in football, which had been obtained while committing allegedly corrupt activities. Successful clubs have also showed that there is a lot of "free money" in the economy that oligarchs invested into sports entertainment.
On the one side, backed by some local successes on the international arena, the rising flow of well-skilled foreign players coming to Ukraine and increase in the number of fans coming to games, it provided an imaginary conviction that Ukrainian football has become as wealthy as European football.
But, on the other hand, this model showed its key weakness too: total non-resilience amid economic and socio-political hardships that the country may face and great losses that the moguls who own clubs may sustain.
This trend has become most evident after Euromaidan and the start of Russia's war against Ukraine. The harsh economic situation in the country has hit oligarchs as well: they massively began to give up on their football-related commitments by drastically cutting spending on the clubs they owned or even abandoned them. In such harsh circumstances, oligarchs realized that their clubs had become "suitcases without a handle". As a result, just three years on from 2014, and 20 professional clubs in Ukraine ceased to exist, while many others are eking out a miserable existence. Moreover, many people stopped visiting stadiums, which led to record-low attendances at stadiums.
WESTERN MODEL: FOOTBALL AS BUSINESS
One of reasons that led to such bad consequences is that, over the years of their functioning, national clubs had failed to profit from football. Despite the fact that wealthy businessmen owned Ukrainian clubs, football has hardly developed as a business. Contrary to the Western model, where football and sports is seen primarily as a business activity, in Ukraine it was perceived, to one extent or another, as a way of competition between dissenting business and political camps.
In the West, the understanding of football as a business is common knowledge. According to the 2018 Football Money League report provided annually by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, revenues of the 20 most-generating clubs reached EUR 7.9 billion in 2016/2017, with England's Manchester United securing its position at the top of the rating with more than EUR 676 million revenue in 2017. By comparison, the budget for the whole Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) tournament in 2018 was UAH 13 million (approximately USD 480,000), as former UPL head Volodymyr Heninson said.
The English Premier League (EPL) has best mastered such a business model. Among the TOP-5 European football leagues, it is first in terms of revenues. In 2017, EPL's revenues came to EUR 5.340 billion, followed by the Spanish La Liga (EUR 2.899 billion) and German Bundesliga (EUR 2.799 billion). Out of the EPL's entire amount of revenue, more than half (EUR 2.910 billion) was generated by TV broadcasting contracts and EUR 1.250 billion was earned due to sponsorship deals and other commercial activities.
Thus, the Premier League remains the most intensely marketed football league in the world. The EPL has the biggest representation in the TOP-10 list of the most valuable brands, with six clubs being there, alongside 2 Spanish clubs, and just 1 German and 1 French. The marketable value of all players that play in the EPL is also record-breaking and reached EUR 8.3 billion. By comparison, the total market value of all the players of Ukrainian Premier League in 2018/2019, was according to Transfermarkt, evaluated at almost EUR 285 million.
The poor condition of national football has on many occasions been confirmed by club owners. In 2009, Oleksandr Yaroslavskiy, the then-owner of Metalist FC, admitted that his club is "a non-performing asset," saying, moreover, that there will be no possibility to make money out of national football in the next 10 years. Nine years later, Ihor Kolomoyskiy, ex-owner of Dnipro FC, confirmed Yaroslavskiy's words, describing his former football club as a project that leads to losses. "Football [in Ukraine] has almost died," he stressed. In an interview with Viktor Vatsko, one of the most prominent Ukrainian football commentators, in early 2019 Ihor Surkis, President of Dynamo Kyiv, answering the question about the business attractiveness of the club he owns, confessed that only if Dynamo was controlled by a true businessman could it have been seen as an asset capable of generating profit.
Such a trend is confirmed by statistical data. The figures presented by a report by UEFA, the body that runs European football, shows that Ukrainian Premier League clubs suffered losses of EUR 60 million in 2017.
WHAT IS THE WAY OUT
The oligarchic model of football management has been dominant in Ukraine for many years. However, the transformations that have been taking place in Ukrainian football since 2014 may finally become a game changer for the whole sector and lead to its future step-by-step revival.
Financial optimization is one of the tools that may, in the long-term, help Ukrainian football to get back on track. Denys Bosianok, a Ukrainian football commentator, even advocates making football salaries match the real situation in the country
Andriy Kovalenko, in his article for Dilova Stolytsia, predicts that full deoligarchisation and drastic changes in deeply rooted approaches of managing football in Ukraine are key preconditions for the game of millions in the country to begin getting up from its knees. This may, first of all, result in the total decadence of the professional football in Ukraine. However, in the long-run, it might open a new window of opportunities for the clubs, which, after years of stagnation, should realize that living within their means is precisely the way it should be done.
After the rehabilitation, new investors, in cooperation with local authorities and communities, as well as professional football managers, should become the force that will provide a helping hand for a club to survive and develop based on internationally-accepted business models. However, in order for this to become true, the overall economic prosperity of the country should also increase significantly. And the transfer from oligarchic and clannish model in the country's socio-political and economic life is paramount in this regard.
The German model of football management may serve as an example in this situation, subject to certain specifics that Ukrainian football has been living with for years. According to the German legislative framework, at least 51% of shareholders in a club, with some concrete exemptions, should constitute sport communities and football fans. It significantly minimizes the possibility for big moguls, including from those outside the country, to come into German football and establish control over its clubs. On the contrary, this, alongside professional football managers that are involved, provides for maintaining sound economic policy, which allows for profits to be earned from organizing football with further investment in a club's development. Such a model has already confirmed its feasibility: the German Bundesliga ranks third is in the TOP-5 European leagues in terms of revenues it generates (EUR 2.799 billion in 2017), just slightly behind Spain's La Liga.
Thus, the evolution of Ukrainian football from the oligarchic nature of management to the business model, alongside a rise in living standards in the country, may become the factor that will change the rules of the game and contribute to football getting back on track.
Analyst and journalist, Internews Ukraine and UkraineWorld