Municipality have postponed road and school repairs to loan club money
5 April ~ Clubs in Poland’s top division, Ekstraklasa, need to prove they have no debt as of March 31 to obtain a licence for next season. One of the most country’s famous clubs, Ruch Chorzow, have been in financial trouble for a long time and earlier this season the were deducted one point for not paying their debts on time. Now they have had to ask the municipality of Chorzow for a loan of 18 million zloty (£3m) to enable them to play in Ekstraklasa in 2016-17.
It is a move that caused huge controversy, with an extremely heated discussion at a city council session on March 31 where some deputies said they felt blackmailed by the club. Krzysztof Hornik, head of the city’s finance and budget committee, said: “It isn’t the city’s responsibility if Ruch play in the fourth tier next season. It’s the fault of the owners that the club is such a mess. The club’s credibility is next to none and now we’ve been asked to throw them some more money? We can’t agree to that.”
A former Ruch player, Mariusz Srutwa, agreed: “The city of Chorzow is a shareholder in the club, which already gets various grants. The stadium is communally owned and used by the club on a minimal rent. I don’t understand why everything should be put on the city’s shoulders.” Over 100 Ruch fans listened to the discussion and sometimes even applauded the criticisms of the club’s board.
Ruch have won the Polish title 14 times but the last was back in 1989 (as featured in the Season In Brief in WSC 341). Since then football in the surrounding region, Silesia, has been in massive decline. In the Communist era, many players worked in coal mines, now they’ve become de facto city council employees.
At the end of the discussion, the city council’s resident Andrzej Kotala took over. "To save professional football,” he said, "we have to postpone stadium modernisation, abandon street renovation plans, pre-schools refurbishment and many more important investments. However I will vote to help Ruch as their relegation would cost us more than the loan.”
At the end of the debate, a majority of the 21 deputies voted to grant the loan. The money has to be repaid in five years. Not many people think it will happen. However Ruch’s president, Dariusz Smagorowicz was in a good mood, saying, with no apparent irony: “Now Ekstraklasa has got another healthy club.” Maciej Slominski