YEKATERINBURG, Russia – Yekaterinburg hoped to have major league hockey back in town for the first time since the wild ‘90s but their team Avtomobilist, one of four expansion teams in the Russian KHL, announced a possible withdrawal due to lack of funds.
The Avtomobilist president Mikhail Papunin wrote a letter to KHL president Alexander Medvedev, chairman of the board of directors of the KHL and chief of the presidential administration within the Russian government Sergei Naryshkin, Russian federation president Vladislav Tretiak, Minister for Sport Vitali Mutko, head of Rossport Vyacheslav Fetisov and the regional government explaining the club’s financial problems.
The club hoped to obtain financial backing from the government of the Sverdlovsk region, where Yekaterinburg is the capital, but the government reportedly withdrew its financial guarantees that were made in February according to the club.
Russia's major sports publication, Sport-Express
, reported that Avtomobilist has, due to its financial problems, withdrawn from an exhibition tournament August 12-15 in Togliatti.
Papunin also wrote in the letter that financial obligations to players of about 200 million rubles ($8.5m) could lead to bankruptcy. The new Russian league has a salary floor of $10 million.
The club has to still pay the admission fee to the Kontinentalnaya Hokkeynaya Liga and Papunin pleas for assistance to solve the financial problems quickly and to not negatively affect the image of the new league.
Alexander Medvedev announced at a press conference that a decision about a possible withdrawal of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg will be made by Wednesday. In the case of withdrawal, traditional club Khimik Voskresensk, which won the second-tier Vysshaya Liga, is the stand-by club and has provided the KHL with financial guarantees.
Medvedev also announced that if Khimik cannot participate, a fourth foreign club will join the KHL.
Link: Open letter on the HK Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg website