I would like to add a sports twist to a plot of election campaigning.
During the struggle for the post of Kharkiv Mayor, one of the contenders, Yuriy Sapronov, who is a local businessman known as the patron of golf and tennis, has allocated UAH 500,000 for the needs of the staff of Metalist Kharkiv FC. The club has been experiencing major problems since its president, the young tycoon Serhiy Kurchenko, fled the country. Well, it’s a blessed deed – helping your favorite team and thousands of its fans.
However, in the context of the elections this noble act was quite naturally viewed as campaigning and an appeal to the emotions of the fans, most of whom also happen to be legitimate voters.
The management of Metalist even found it necessary to make a statement on the club's official website, "a reminder that football in our country in general and in Kharkiv, in particular, has been and remains beyond politics. The stadium is a campaigning-free territory, while the club’s staff is not part of the election campaign of any political forces. Also, FC Metallist would like to draw the attention of all those involved in spinning the hype to the fact that bribery of voters in any form is prohibited by law in Ukraine."
Well, of course, it’s possible that such an ambiguous timing for the mayoral candidate to express his love for the club was pure coincidence, isn’t it?
However, the act of football humanism was of little help to Yuriy Sapronov not help - he only came third in the elections...
And I thought that there is a considerable number of football clubs across Ukraine struggling for survival. That is, there’s a nice pitch for campaigning games. Wouldn’t it be great if one of the two mayoral candidates from Zaporizhia (or both of them, which is better) gave some cash to the local Metalurg FC ahead of the second tour of elections? The club is in dire straits, having no means to pay utility bills, afford trips for away games, not to mention timely payments to players and staff. The club is on the verge of collapse, frantically searching for an investor, so it would be happy to see some financial assistance.
The status of a savior of a favorite club is a great advantage for the electoral karma. But it’s in no case a guarantee of success.
Actually, engaging sports celebrities in election campaigns has a long history. Back in the 1930s, the legendary Joe Louis, world heavyweight boxing champion, was lured into campaigning for the presidential hopeful from the Republican camp, Wendell Willkie, against Franklin Roosevelt. As we all know, Willkie failed.
In late 90’s Dynamo Kyiv dream team led by the legendary Valery Lobanovsky publically rooted for Hryhoriy Surkis in mayoral elections, while a 2004 Ballon d’Or winner Andriy Shevchenko traded his face to gain support for Natalia Korolevska’s Ukraina Vpered Party. Both campaigns saw no positive result.
That is, the candidates shouldn’t exaggerate the factor of the people's sports sympathies. Politicians may pass the ball, but it’s always the voters who score.
In fact, politicians tend to realize it. So, unfortunately, it’s “sink or swim” for those in need, even during the elections.