Hryhoriy Surkis and the end of his career
The last UEFA Congress in Athens, for the average fan, seemed to be another Hrihoriy Surkis’ triumph — Kyiv received the right to host the Champions League final. But in fact it turned out the era of big Surkis ended unexpectedly: he has nothing to do with the finals and the most important thing for him now is to leave UEFA with minimal reputational losses after the scandal during the election of the new UEFA head. Unfortunately, he ends his brilliant career with the stigma of corruption, and it’s really sad and certainly unexpected.
Surkis is the most successful Ukrainian official UEFA and undoubtedly one of the most notorious leaders of the UFF. He is the person thanks to whom we hosted the Euro 2012. After all, it was him who started the revival of Ukrainian football from Dynamo Kyiv and gave the push to the era of big money in Ukrainian sport. His work as president of the UFF was considered successful even by his opponents. So why in the eyes of Europe he has a negative image? Let’s investigate.
For Europe Surkis isn’t such a major a figure as for Ukraine, but he made an incredible career and many in Ukraine thought he’ll become the next president of UEFA. Moreover, fans wondered why he did not run for the vacant seat of Platini after his removal — it was a brilliant chance, it seemed. But even then Surkis understood his time in the League is nearing its end, although he knew that even earlier — when Blatter was removed.
Let’s see what are the reasons for Surkis’ downfall.
1. Active cooperation with Blatter and Platini
After the 2015 criminal case against Blatter and Platini many dirty secrets of FIFA and UEFA were uncovered. Mainly it was corruption and financial fraud. Surkis was actively working with both FIFA and UEFA and was known as a successful negotiator with various football organizations. The only time he had failed were the elections this September 14, 2016, when he went all-in and lost.
When the nuances of the elections in Russia and Qatar had surfaced, some experienced people in FIFA were mentioning Surkis, but they were told he is not involved into the matters of other football organizations, except for UEFA. And UEFA is the most honest and transparent organization. When Platini himself was caught on bribes from FIFA, it was clear that both organizations are involved in corruption. And denying Surkis’ involvement in corruption has become much more difficult. It is hard to believe that UEFA vice-president knew nothing and was not involved in the shady financial schemes of the international football organizations.
Yet he remained one of the few who weren’t charged with the corruptions. However, European and American sports journalists learned from their sources that it wasn’t because Surkis wasn’t involved. The matter was in him being a Ukrainian. USA, the initiator of the financial investigations, decided not to touch a representative of a country that already has the reputation of a corrupt one.
UEFA and FIFA are very similar to the Vatican — they rarely bring their problems to the public. It was the same in the case of Havelange’s bribery or when they carefully removed all those involved in corruption scandals of the late 90’s. They found everything, just decided to investigate in the “family” circle.
2. Hrihoriy Surkis and Russia
This is a very delicate topic for the UEFA. On the one hand, UEFA and FIFA are all in for the world peace, but on the other Russia was not punished by any of the football authorities. You want to say football has nothing to do with politics? Many teams that were disqualified for political reasons would disagree. For example, South Africa because of apartheid or Yugoslavia in 1990 because of the civil war. UEFA had enough reasons to deliver a serious blow to Russia, but just like Serhiy Bubka in the Olympic Committee, Surkis came to the defense of the neighbor.
You might say UEFA would not have touched Russia anyways, as Gazprom is an important sponsor of the organization? Quite a controversial statement, since UEFA has no problems with finding new sponsors, especially for the Champions League or the Euro. Moreover, the share of Gazprom in its income is not critical, especially due to the fact that Gazprom is now going through difficult times and its stable partnerships in all the sponsorship contracts is under serious question.
In 2015, FIFA was considering transferring the World Cup. Even if we disregard the international sanctions, Russia wasn’t keeping up with the necessary preparations. However, Surkis saved the situation. His position is, in fact, understandable. After all, Russian Koloskov seriously lobbied the interests of Ukraine during the voting for Euro 2012.
The meeting between Putin and Surkis was organized in St. Petersburg. Together with Surkis travelled his child’s godfather Medvedchuk (yes, the same Medvedchuk, who is also friends with Putin). At that time, both Blatter and Platini were still in power. The meeting was blessed by Joseph Blatter, who was bribed by Putin and fiercely defended his interests. Platini supported the for transfer. Surkis took Blatter’s side, and was able to convince everyone not to punish Russia. Michel Platini was unhappy with the result of the negotiations.
Needless to say, in the eyes of Europeans such a position of a Ukraine citizen looked pretty weird. At a time when Europe imposed sanctions and regularly opposed Russia, Surkis helped the aggressor. This doesn’t compliment the UEFA’s vice-president.
3. Surkis against Cheferin
And finally, the elections that Surkis had miserably lost.
After Platini’s departure because of the already above-mentioned reasons, Surkis did not try to take the leading role in the League. Now it was not only dangerous, but also could have serious consequences. FBI meticulously checked all the officials on the subject of “dishonest” money, and it was better just to sit quietly — who knew what are the Americans capable of. He was waiting for a year. Surkis voluntarily withdrew and left all the levers of power in League to his opponents hoping to reduce attention to himseld. But he was mistaken, since corrupted Platini team was replaced by new people with different views and values. The undisputed leader of the “new wave” was a Slovene Cheferin Alexander, who led the legal department and therefore tacitly began cleaning the UEFA. Of course, he immediately became the main threat to Surkis.
That was the first Surkis’ serious mistake. Probably his intuition failed this time. After all, no one has the ability to feel the situation and take the right decisions like he did. He successfully moved from the defeated Johansson team to the winning Platini team. And with the rise… but now he had to leave. Leave with honor and fanfare. But Surkis did not feel the situation. Or simply did not want to believe the obvious.
And so the struggle began. Surkis probably intuitively felt he has no chances, so he made a bid for the Spaniard Angel Maria Villar. He knew him well, they climbed the UEFA’s ladders together. The aggressive pressure on members of the executive committee had started, but the result was the opposite. Villar himself did not want to participate in the “dirty” election campaign and soon withdrew. Moreover, the Spaniard also was under suspicion by the same prosecutors’ that questioned Platini, and he didn’t need the additional problems. This was a disaster, especially since Russia had already expressed its support for Villar, which was the anti-advertising for Surkis’ team.
Then the final blow. Who is against Cheferin? Ah, the Dutch Van Praah. Surkis began to put pressure on diplomats. He believed in Van Praah’s victory till the last moment. He refused to understand that any candidate he supports will lose because of his support.
And finally, the election of a new head of the UEFA. 42 out of 55 for Cheferin.
Surkis’s problem is very similar to Tymoschuk’s. You need to know when to leave, so you get a standing ovation, not booing and spats in the back. Unfortunately, recent actions of Surkis played against Ukraine. And it is very important for our country to be represented by a man with a pure, unsullied reputation.
The chances that a person with the stigma of corruption retains a leading position in the League, are null. What may be the norm in Ukraine, for Europe is unacceptable. Recent Surkis activity during the elections will have serious consequences. And it is better to go voluntarily, without waiting until you are made to leave. Return to the Ukrainian football? In what status? His reputation is too tarnished for the serious roles. A possible scenario is a return to the Dynamo, there is already high time for cleaning up. His brother Igor is certainly unable to solve the situation at the club.
And, finally, Kyiv being chosen for the Champions League Final 2018 is not Hryhoriy Surkis’ victory. He admits it himself. We must understand that now begins a new era of relations between UEFA and Ukraine. Now it is about victories and defeats of the new football leaders. Time moves forward, and new faces appear on the football Olympus. We hope that Ukraine will not be left without its lobby in the international football organizations. Instead of Hryhoriy Surkis new ambitious people will come. The main thing is that the so it for the sake of football, and not for the personal enrichment.