Earlier we discussed the departure of Slovan from the KHL as well as the ownership change in the club. Now, I would like to look at Slovan’s future. The new majority owner, Mr Rudolf Hrubý, was interviewed by the Slovak edition of Forbes [October 2020], so I will sum the interview up.

How the Slovan Ownership Talks Began

Before you start reading this piece, I recommend you to read this & this article about Slovan Bratislava. It is a summary of the past.

Now, to the present day. According to Forbes, Mr Hrubý is currently the fifth wealthiest Slovak with a net worth of  €670 million. He belongs to the co-owners (22 per cent share) and top-tier executives of the IT giant corporation ESET.

He wanted to invest in the Slovak hockey club in Skalica near the Czech borders, while the club was playing their last season [2015-16] at the top tier league in Slovakia. But the club was not interested in any help.

“For around three years the various people had been contacting me & investigating if I would be interested in buying Slovan. I considered the worst time frame for the acquisition when Slovan was playing the KHL,” he says to Forbes. Obviously, the price would be much higher at the time.

He continues, “we have talked about the acquisition since January [2020]. I was also searching for business partners because Slovan is a big club, so I did not want to be the sole owner. Then, the coronavirus pandemic halted the talks. At the end of April and early May [2020], we decided to continue in negotiations. So, I decided that it is the best timing for the final deal.” Just reminding you, Slovan announced the ownership change during the summer.

According to Forbes, Hrubý is the club’s majority owner with a 57 per cent share while his business partners Pavol Hofstädter & Eduard Jánošík have the minority.

Rudolf Hrubý (left) and Pavol Hofstädter

Renting the Arena or Building the New One?

Meanwhile, Slovan declares the budget at around €3.5-4 million for the current season [2020-21], including the players’ payroll of around €1.2 million, other costs, and also renting of the arena. Just noting that Zimný Štadión Ondreja Nepelu is owned by the city of Bratislava. Its capacity is 10,055 seats.

According to media reports, the payments to the city for renting the arena should be above €0.5 million. This sum is too high even for Slovan. So, the club would like to negotiate with the city about lowering the rent. Moreover, Slovan is interested in a long-term renting agreement (10-15 years) of the whole arena, so not just for their home games & training sessions. If I get it, the club would like to manage all events at the venue. So, getting some extra income. It is some kind of compromise with the municipality in a case when the club does not own the arena. So far, the position of the city is clear, they do not want to sell the venue.

“However, I can also imagine a situation when we will not come to an agreement [with the municipality] and we will try to build a larger arena somewhere else. I believe that I will find investors for that. I would definitely look for investors also outside the city and outside Slovakia. And I’m sure they would be found,” says Hrubý. 

Zimný Štadión Ondreja Nepelu (Ondrej Nepela Arena) at the 2019 IIHF World Championship

Mr Hrubý Invited to KHL Events

Of course, Slovan does not need a bigger venue just to play the Slovak league. So, it is natural to look for options outside the country. And honestly, the KHL is the only realistic option with benefits for the club.

As we reported earlier, the KHL leadership has already talked to the new Slovan owner. Hrubý adds, “of course, the Russian partners have already learned that the club has changed owners and I know that they invited us to Russia for two events. They were very satisfied that Slovan played in the KHL and they would like us to play there again. But I would only go to that league if I had covered all the activities [budget], and not from Russian sponsors, but ours.” 

As All Beard No Teeth Hockey has exclusively learned from Slovan Bratislava, Mr Hrubý was invited to the KHL World Games planned in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the KHL All-Star Week in Riga, Latvia. Unfortunately, due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the KHL had to cancel both events this season. Guessing, the invitation will be prolonged for other events in the future.

What They Have in Common…

So, just a quick comment. This sponsors’ policy is exactly what the KHL demands from the potential new teams since 2014. The clubs should be able to finance themselves from their national sources, so without the Russian sponsors. Just remind you that the Russian Gazprom Export was the main sponsor of the club in their previous KHL journey.

Moreover, Mr Hrubý is an ideal personality for the nowadays KHL with his principle to finance the club from private sources. So, not relying on the state corporations. Of course, we can not predict how the talks end up. But Hrubý is definitely a character the league is searching for as a club owner.

And what is very clear even from the early assessments, Slovan under Hrubý would like to regularly play for a playoff spot in the KHL. The league needs such ambitious clubs!

I would recommend Mr Hrubý, in case of the comeback, to demand the seat at the KHL Board of Directors for Slovan as Jokerit did. As we know, Jari Kurri represents the Finnish side at the league’s Board. Hence, Jokerit has a relatively strong, stable & respected position within the league’s hierarchy.   

More Players, More Fun…

And Mr Hrubý knows how much money the club would need for the KHL side. “You need at least €15 million. If you give more money, you can achieve more,” he says to Forbes.

Officially, the KHL requests at least €10 million from any new team. After the introduction of the salary floor, the clubs will need at least ₽495 million (so €6-7 million) for players’ payrolls in the upcoming years. That’s the minimum.

But he adds, “and in addition to money, as we have already talked about, we no longer have players! When Slovan went to the KHL, the club had its own players, the Slovaks. This is no longer the case today. We [Slovakia] have about seven players in the KHL. There is nobody to play with.”

So, Slovan will insist on much better prospects’ development. The club plans to invest many resources into the facilities & coaching at youth level. The club aims to develop as many top players as possible. Of course, these prospects should play for Slovan but the club would not be against their transfer abroad in case of a serious transfer fee.

Here I can repeat myself by saying, the ideal approach for the current KHL. It is not a secret that transfer fees inside the league play a significant role in the KHL clubs’ operations. And they should play a much bigger role in the future as we explained with Avangard’s Alexander Krylov in our previous article. So, the philosophy of the new Slovan ideally fits here.

Finally, I do not know if Slovan comes back to the KHL. But I know that the club & their fans would deserve the top-notch European competition to be played in their city again. We can just hope, doors are open.

Feature Image Credit: Photo by Mikhail Japaridze\TASS via Getty Images

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I support European club hockey and I want European hockey to be as strong as possible. European hockey fans have witnessed too many attempts to launch a cross-border competition. I have been following hockey all my life and I have had the same question. Why is there not a hockey version of the UEFA Champions League? Or a European version of the NHL? 2008 was a year when a version of both, was launched. As a fan, I started to follow both leagues although it was not cool to follow the KHL at the time. Furthermore, it was a bit complicated to get the first-hand information about the KHL, the media did not cover the league as deeply as I would want. Based on my experience with the KHL & other European club hockey competitions I would like to write about the most important on and off-ice, issues of European club hockey.