Like walking on thin ice: what Neftekhimik confronts the pandemic with
2020 was full of restrictions for sports clubs and their fans. The pandemic changed the calendar of games of the ongoing season, the number of spectators in matches, temporarily knocked key players out, all this had a negative impact on clubs’ revenue from the sale of tickets. The Continental Hockey League (KHL) approached the Gagarin Cup in such conditions. Unfortunately, this year Neftekhimik HC didn’t manage to reach the play-offs, this is why the Nizhnekamsk team is already making plans for the next season.
According to new rules
The onset of the pandemic led to an early end of the KHL Championship in 2019-2020. The management of the League announced this before the semi-final of conferences, the play-off. They decided not to find out who is the winner, this is why athletes went on deserved holiday.
Meanwhile, the KHL started to actively prepare for the upcoming championship. A regulation on the order of sanitary and anti-epidemic (preventive) measures when preparing and hosting pre-season camps and matches of the KHL, JHL and WHL. This voluminous document was a kind of manual of club managers and coaching staffs, especially during pre-season camps and at the beginning of the championship.
The regulation included testing KHL participants for coronavirus once in five days, creation of a clean zone for players, staff and game organisers, limited the number of people who are in a certain area inside the ice palace.
Team captains were prohibited from shaking the hands of referees, referees and hockey players couldn’t appear on the ice together, traditional shows with artists before matches were forbidden.
Although the situation with the pandemic didn’t stabilise by the beginning of the KHL Championship, the season kicked off according to schedule, on 2 September. Despite the measures that were taken, not everything ran smoothly. 23 matches were put off because of outbreaks of the disease. Teams that didn’t show up in a match were withdrawn five times. During the season, players of the main squad who went sick fell out of the competition, hockey players from junior and supreme hockey leagues played matches instead of them.
So the regular championship has brought a new record this season — over 120 young hockey players have played in KHL matches in 2020-2021. As of February, 305 KHL players had coronavirus during the season.
Results of the year for Neftekhimik in numbers and not only
The year that was complicated for the whole sports industry turned out to be tough for Neftekhimik too. The pandemic also affected the team’s training and its performance in the regular championship.
At the beginning of the championship, coronavirus hit the Nizhnekamsk team too. Therefore the Wolves had to play the first match of the season against SKA not only without a number of key players but also the coaching staff. As a result, Neftekhimik played the game with a lot of young players under the head coach of Reactor Junior Hockey Club. Nevertheless, the Nizhnekamsk players played decently losing to the renowned opponent only one point.
The club’s management in general has had their eye on young players for long by regularly giving them a chance of trying their hand at Eurasia’s strongest hockey league. The average age of Neftekhimik athletes is 24 years. 18 pupils of the club play for the Nizhnekamsk team. No KHL team has such a number.
This season, six pupils of the club were called up by national teams. Before joining SKA, Maxim Groshev had played for the national team, while Marat Khayrullin, Pavel Poryadin, Gleb Semyonov, Alexander Bryntsev and Rafael Bikmullin performed for Russia’s Olympic team.
Experience for young players is the main advantage of the previous championship for the Wolves, they got stronger and improved their sports skills. The players the club bets on in the foreseeable future also improved their mastery.
The pandemic made an impact on the attendance of matches — the restrictions affected the number of spectators watching the match in the stands. Despite this, the club increased the sale of subscriptions and tickets. In 2020, sales revenue totalled 17,225 rubles against 15,988 rubles in 2019.
Neftekhimik’s income from the KHL’s use of the club’s merch doubled. It became possible to earn 12,274 rubles from this. In 2019, the sum was 6,926 rubles.
Due to the epidemiological situation, all KHL clubs faced unexpected hardships. For this reason, the budget of Neftekhimik decreased twice compared to 2019-2020.
In this situation, the club had to cut its expenses on uniforms, flights, accommodation, food and training camps of the team. Thanks to a smartly arranged plan of measures made by the administration of the club, the budget cut didn’t affect the supply of the team with the essentials to participate in the championship. But it did have an impact on the equipment of the team with more skilled players.
Last season, Neftekhimik managed to earn a lot of money from the transfer of players who are its own pupils. The club made 117 million rubles of additional income for the transfer and compensation for the first time in history.
According to the club’s financial report as of 31 December 2020, authorised capital is 762,9 million rubles, net assets amount to 471,5 million rubles. Though Neftekhimik’s net assets value of lower than its authorised capital, the assets rose by 28 million rubles compared to 2019 and by 291 million rubles compared to 2018.
The club constantly reduces the loss of previous years thanks to annual income. A long-term business plan from 2020 to 2030was created to increase its revenue. It is mainly designed to develop partnership programmes, promote the club’s brand, introduce new hockey ticket sale technologies.
So in 2020-2021, Neftekhimik earned 2,8 million rubles from selling partnership programmes, while last year it received 0,5 million rubles.
After the regular 2020/2021 KHL Championship, the club administration summed it up and developed a programme to increase the motivation of the team of masters to achieve the best sports results.
Nowadays the club is putting a lot of effort to implement socially important projects: the installation of a modular gas boiler in the hockey team’s base, assembly of ice melting equipment at Neftekhim Arena Ice Palace as well as roof repairs in the Small Ice Palace to create more comfortable conditions for the players and their fans.