17 lip 2012

Authorities should say no to Polonia and GieKSa merger

This was hanging in the air for some time now and even knowing what kind of person Józef Wojciechowski is, only few were not surprised as the news of him selling Polonia Warsaw's license to the owners of GKS Katowice. New club is going to be created, playing under the name of KP "GieKSa" Katowice and the very first games should be played in Krakow or Sosnowiec, because of league regulations.

Józef Wojciechowski is probably the most controversial personality that existed in Polish football in recent decade, as he invested in Polonia six years ago, then also buying out the license of Groclin Grodzisk Wielkopolski to play in Ekstraklasa. He sacked more than twenty managers during that time, invented the Coconut Club, brought Jose Mari Bakero to Poland, allowed to earn crazy money to countless numbers of players, paying millions for average footballers as well. 

He invited his employees on own plane to take them to El Clasico, after matches won they could count on his joyful mood and special bonuses, while even during half time he was able to call his manager and impose own views about tactics and substitutions. Those who struggled or opposed were simply sacked or, worse, made train on their own.

Wojciechowski's patience ended when last season his team failed to live up to his expectations of finally winning a trophy. His six-years-long stint at the club ended without Polonia being anywhere close reaching his main goal - the Champions League. Wojciechowski put the club on sale and received numbers of offers but decided to go with the worst one - the one that in reality meant the end of Polonia.

It is not irrelevant that Polonia made their progression to Ekstraklasa on similar terms as now Katowice will. Fans accepted that move, supported Wojciechowski's merger with Groclin but throughout his time at Konwiktorska there was rarely time of understatement and trust between the owner and fans - if only, then driven to the discontent at team's performances. 

Now, they find themselves on the other side of the problem, looking at possible liquidation of the club, especially when the rights for the name and badge are staying with Wojciechowski. It will be extremely tough to bring Polonia back to the place it belongs, a process that will take time and money, patience and actions from fans that have found themselves on the brink. Ekstraklasa nor PZPN may not be able to do anything about their status but for the greater good of the football in Poland, they should oppose to the merger and creation of new club.

 Without a doubt, this merger is bad for league - in times of expansion of interest in Polish football, distinguished by successful organization of Euro 2012 and TV-rights going to more countries, this maybe makes Ekstraklasa interesting at the moment, but competition will suffer on the course of the season. With KP GieKSa playing not in Katowice, fans boycotting the new creation, we are looking at potential marketing disaster - empty ground, poor, unprepared team and no potential future. Authorities should be well aware of how the league looked like when Wisła and Cracovia had to play in Sosnowiec, in times when their grounds were under construction. Crowds of 300 are hardly making the product more attractive to potential sponsors. 

Poland have seen quite a few mergers in more than twenty years after transformation, yet still there are no regulations in the league that would make clubs, their traditions and fans, a bit safer, even if under the rule of such controversial figures as Józef Wojciechowski is. If to believe press reports, he could go for different investor, choosing someone who would keep Polonia afloat for some time at least - and if Wojciechowski's fortune is as big as he claims, then he could afford himself that decision. But for reasons unknown, he went for burning all bridges - burning the whole club down, the one thing that would remind him of the most spectacular failure in his life, in his own city. Such personality he is, such devalued concept of satisfaction he has.

Also, this time, the merger means destroying two clubs, two great traditions, two reasonably large fan bases for... what exactly? One's businessman wish to compete in Ekstraklasa, to create something he can show off to his friends? Another force in Polish football? If so, that makes the person clueless of what and how proper football teams are build - from scratch, from the basics, youth teams, training base and structures that will give the ability to clubs to give success for generations, not single seasons.

If, for creators of KP GieKSa Katowice, the disastrous failure of Wojciechowski to win anything is not the best example, then look at Wisła Krakow and Bogusław Cupiał, who bought the club fifteen years ago. Arguably, he created a team that dominated the league since then, but never been able to create something more out of it and never reached the ultimate dream of the Champions League gates - now Wisła is in another transition after temporary squad was build on experienced players and without youth coming through. The seventh-place finish speaks for itself.

The refusal to welcome new creation into the league would be an exceptional disagreement for short-term, supposedly successful tactics of building football clubs in this country. Leaving Polonia's history, tradition and fans aside for a while, if there is at least intention of caring about the situation in the game from its authorities, then the moment to react is perfect. A simple "no" would do, for a start.

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