Today I talk about the KHL’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and make a few thoughts on the financial stability in European club hockey. The ongoing COVID pandemic has shown its real status. And it is not that positive.
The COVID Testing in the KHL
So, a few words about the pandemic in the KHL. As of September 23rd, the situation with COVID-19 is getting more serious than earlier, but the status quo is not critical. At the time, the league does not consider pausing the season. The league recommends their teams to skate their reserve players in case of positive tests in the team. Of course, the league would try to reschedule the games, but it is not always possible. Because the KHL’s schedule is the most complicated in all of Europe due to playing every day a week. So, if the clubs do not follow the recommendations, the league will grant a forfeit in a game. Let us hope the situation will get to normal soon.
Just noting that the KHL has been testing all players & staff every five days. Of course, the league covers the costs. It is a unique model for European club hockey because no other league is doing the same in such frequency if at all. Moreover, the Czech Extraleague says it is too expensive for them to regularly test all players & staff, so they test only a team with symptoms of coronavirus. Naturally, if you do not test all teams regularly, you do not have the positive players in high numbers. Despite it, a few games in the Czech Extraleague have been already postponed.
Is European Hockey Stable?
The pandemic shows the status of European club hockey, which is not as financially stable as people use to say. All major European leagues & clubs demand financial compensation from their governments instead of searching the extra resources in the pockets of the clubs’ owners.
Why do I say it? Because many people have criticised the KHL’s business model over the years for its alleged unsustainability. While the KHL with its hosting country, Russia, has survived much more serious economic shocks than the COVID pandemic. Despite it, the KHL has kept its top-notch quality with much higher players’ salaries than any other hockey league in Europe.
Even René Fasel says that European hockey will face very difficult times with many clubs & leagues having the existential problems without fans in stands and the financial compensations from the governments. While the KHL is getting out of the state funding. What a paradox!
I do not say that European hockey should be financed with governments’ funds. I just address the people criticising the KHL model, who have no moral authority to do so now when all European hockey is demanding the governments’ funds to survive.
Two Conceptions for Europe
European hockey has been living in the bipolar era since 2008. We witness two conceptions, the one is represented by the KHL. So, the league with the leading clubs in Eurasia. While the second one copying the UEFA model. So, a few top clubs from various domestic leagues competing in European competition – the Champions Hockey League (CHL). Neither model is fully developed yet. But it will be interesting to follow which conception will handle the pandemic better and more effectively.
So far the KHL is playing while the CHL has postponed their season’s opener at least twice. And it is not only about financial resources but also human capabilities because dealing with the governments across Europe is no easy task.
Lately, the CHL has lost its British participant in the Cardiff Devils because the British Elite Ice Hockey League suspended their 2020-21 season due to the pandemic. So, there is no sense for the Welsh team to participate in European competition either.
Note: On October 13th the Champions Hockey League announced the cancellation of the 2020-21 season.
Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)