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Shakhtar Donetsk’s Sergei Palkin: ‘FIFA Is Destroying Ukrainian Soccer’

Shakhtar Donetsk and their CEO Sergei Palkin are, he feels, excluded from the soccer family. War has ravaged his country and Ukrainian soccer, leaving Donetsk and the other domestic clubs on the brink. He does not think about the long-term but simply focuses on day-to-day survival in an environment where everything is uncertain.

His sense of alienation however also comes from a dispute with global governing body FIFA, which he accuses of aggravating his club’s plight by suspending international contracts following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to what he claims a 40 million euros loss. Palkin and Donetsk have taken FIFA to CAS, the highest court in sports.

Palkin argues that FIFA should establish a reparation fund for his club and other Ukrainian outfits that have been affected by the world federation’s ‘completely irresponsible decisions.’ He also says that the global governing body should mediate to ensure Ukrainian clubs that had payment obligations to other clubs are deferred until after the crisis has eased.

He believes that FIFA ‘overreached’ by suspending the international contracts and following the decision in March, foreign players departed Donetsk in numbers. Brazilian midfielder Tetê and Israeli forward Manor Solomon are now playing for French side Lyon and English Premier League club Fulham respectively. Another five Brazilians left for other European clubs.

‘Foreigners were half of the team, FIFA allowed half of the team to leave,’ says Palkin. ‘How can you properly compete? How can we survive? FIFA can’t interfere in contractual relations in which it is not a party. In this situation they should support Ukrainian clubs because we are at war, because we have a lot of problems. We need help. Instead, what has happened is that they released our players and finito. They always say we are one football family but on the other hand they kill Ukrainian football.’

On Thursday, Donetsk argued in court that there were no legal grounds to suspend employment contracts under Ukrainian and Swiss law, that FIFA’s ruling violated EU competition law and in particular article 101 TFEU, that the world federation violated its own good governance practices and standards, and that the ruling was discriminatory.

‘We need fairness and justice,’ said Palkin. ‘That’s what we need. We need to understand that we are one family. We should be helped and not destroyed by FIFA.’

Palkin wants FIFA to pay 40 million euros. That should help Donetsk in surviving in a landscape where fans are absent, commercial revenue marginal and TV rights contract insignificant as the economy tanks during the war. Palkin sums it up: ‘Our horizon of planning is one week.’

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