13:29 PM Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Ukraine’s top football team heads back East – to Kharkiv
Shakhtar's departure will leave Lviv's Arena stadium largely empty
image/svg+xml Kyiv Lutsk Rivne Zhytomyr Lviv Ternopil Khmelnytskyi Uzhgorod Chernivtsi Vinnytsia Chernigiv Sumy Kharkiv Poltava Cherkasy Kirovohrad Lugansk Dnipropetrovsk Donetsk Zaporizhzhia Mykolaiv Odesa Kherson Simferopol Sevastopol Ivano- Frankivsk

KYIV -- In an economic blow to Lviv, Shakhtar Donetsk – the team left homeless by the separatist takeover of the Donbas – has decided to move from Lviv, 1,000 km east, to the city of Kharkiv.

The team cited ‘wanting to be closer to their fans’ as the reason for the move in a press release.

But team General Director, Sergey Palkin has complained about sparse crowds in Lviv.

“I am confident that in Kharkiv not less than 10,000 per match” he told this week. “Last year, the average attendance in Lviv was in the thousands.”

Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second biggest city, with a population of 1.4 million, about twice as big as Lviv. In addition, Kharkiv has about 300,000 university students, three times as many as Lviv.

In six matches this season at its adopted home in Lviv against Ukrainian opponents, the team drew a total of 10,626 fans, an average of 1,771 per game. This was only 5 percent of the seating capacity of Lviv’s Arena stadium. More fans turned out for bigger games, against arch rival Dynamo Kyiv or crosstown club Karpaty Lviv .

Tickets range in price from $2 to $11. If Palkin’s 10,000 fans a game prediction proves true, that could mean additional $55,000 in ticket sales per game. Kharkiv’s Metalist Stadium seats 40,000. Without a Ukrainian Premier League team since 2014, many fans in Kharkiv will welcome the arrival of their old Eastern Ukraine rivals from Donetsk.

Lviv Loses Out

The 2014 arrival of Shakhtar to Lviv was a boon to the stadium and the city. The stadium was specially built for the 2012 UEFA EURO European championship, staged jointly with Poland, in order to draw Europeans to western Ukraine.

It is considered too large and too expensive for the city’s main soccer club, so the stadium has no primary tenant. The stadium received nearly half its revenue from Shakhtar games, says Galicia Sports. This is in addition to the team covering all costs related to pitch management.

Lviv will lose tourism dollars that came when Shakhtar played a a home game against big name opponent, such as Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Galicia Sports estimates that total to be in excess of $1 million per major match spent at Lviv’s hotels and pubs.

Return to the East

The move to Kharkiv will allow Shakhtar to connect with its more traditional eastern Ukrainian fan base. They hope to attract former hometown fans by offering 20 percent discounts from people displaced by the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk. Now cut off by the war, Donetsk was a 5 hour, 300 km drive southeast from Kharkiv.

With the move, Shakhtar, Ukraine’s gypsy team, will call a third 2012 UEFA Euro Cup stadium home in four years. In 2014, the Donbas Arena was damaged by shelling in the conflict between Ukraine’s Army and Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk.

For comments or news tips, please contact UBJ Reporter Lee Reaney at

Tom Photo: Shaktar players in action.

Photo: Metalist Arena Stadium, the new home of Shaktar, a team once based in Donetsk.

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