THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Damaging results and attendances

icon groundbuy23 October ~ The inconvenience placed on fans when Sky decide to shift fixtures for TV is annoying, but it pales into comparison to what fans of some Moscow clubs are putting up with: a lack of playable pitches in the Russian capital means clubs are having to move home matches to other cities. Reconstruction work on three Moscow stadiums has left CSKA, Dinamo and Spartak without a home in 2013-14. Originally Spartak were to share at the Lokomotiv Stadium, while CSKA and Dinamo used Arena Khimki: an 18,500 capacity stadium in Khimki, 15 miles outside Moscow.

Heavy rain in September and overuse of the pitches soon left both unusable. CSKA had to host Anzhi Makhachkala at first division Torpedo's crumbling ground; they then played a derby with Dinamo at Lokomotiv's reserve ground. Dinamo themselves have taken up semi-permanent residence at Rodina, a tiny stadium in Khimki with an artificial surface.

But these are minor inconveniences compared to CSKA's scratching around for a stadium to host Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League earlier this month – Zenit St Petersburg eventually put them up. As Zenit had played in the Champions League themselves the day before, the Czech side were unable even to have a training session on the pitch. Moscow to St Petersburg is 400 miles, but Spartak fans were recently faced with a "home" tie played in Ekaterinburg, 880 miles east of the capital.

The club laid on free buses for its fans, but few of the 12,500 season ticket holders could go – the distance by road meant leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday. Spartak fans and journalists alike were confused as to why the game hadn't been played at a location closer to Moscow, or one with a warmer climate.

Players as well as fans are annoyed by the disruption, and the precedence given to certain fixtures. "We're suffering because Manchester City is coming here [in the Champions League]… we're footballers, not hockey players. I want to play on a natural pitch," was how Dinamo and former Liverpool forward Andriy Voronin put it in a press conference last weekend.

As the weather deteriorates, fans are wondering why the city's biggest stadium, the Luzhniki, cannot be used. Though officially closed, reconstruction work is not due to start until 2014. It would be a workable short-term solution, especially as it is still in use for some activities – there was surprise last week when Twitter pictures appeared of Russian police using the stadium for training. If a solution is not found then attendances, currently dropping, will drop further as teams play home matches in stadiums that are too distant, or else too small even for season ticket holders.

The issue may also impact on the league title – Spartak were considered to have dropped points when they drew 0-0 with Terek Grozny in Ekaterinburg; CSKA would have expected better than the draw they got when forced to play on Torpedo's poor quality pitch. Zenit, currently five points clear at the top, may end up being one of the few beneficiaries of the Moscow stadium crisis. Saul Pope

Related articles

Klopp: Bring the noise by Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey Press, £12.99Reviewed by Huw RichardsFrom WSC 375, April 2018Buy the book Some managers seem destined for certain clubs....
In praise of The Cowshed – the rickety heart of Huddersfield’s old Leeds Road
The award-winning arches of the Terriers’ current home will never replace the pleasures of their old stadium, according to Steve Wilson in WSC...
Photo of the week ~ Layer Road, former home to Colchester United
Layer Road was Colchester United’s home between 1937 and 2008. It had been open since 1910 and home to Colchester Town until United were...