Author: Nadir SANANOGHLU
Serious changes have taken place recently at FC Neftchi, Azerbaijan's oldest football club. It was expected that the club will have a new manager, but the mid-season resignation of one of the club officials was unexpected indeed.
Season of change
Neftchi has enjoyed a legendary prominence and popularity since the Soviet times, hence attracting so much popular interest. The fans of the club always expect it to be the strongest team in various championships. However, in recent years the club have been lagging behind FC Garabagh. This eventually led to resentment among Neftchi’s loyal and ever-present supporters. On top of that, the club's long absence at European championship has made reforms necessary and unavoidable. The fans blame both the coach and the management for yet another failure, since a season is thought to have ended unsuccessfully if the club fails to become a champion. This situation soon ended with the replacement of the club's manager.
The decision to start reforms was adopted at the last meeting of the Neftchi Supervisory Board. The board presented the club's overall strategy for the next season, investment plan, infrastructure projects, media and marketing activities. Also, the chairman of the Supervisory Board, Chingiz Abdullayev, was officially replaced by Rovshan Najaf, president of SOCAR.
Also, board members Jabrayil Jabrayilov, Farhad Badalbeyli and Mehdi Najafov were replaced by Emin Amrullayev, Orkhan Sultanov, Zaur Gahramanov, Elnara Mamedova, Hafiz Zeynalov and Samed Gurbanov, who will make decisions for Neftchi from now on. Most of the members are new. It is interesting to see Minister of Science and Education Emin Amrullayev on the list of the renewed Supervisory Board. There are rumours of other possible replacements.
There are rumours are SOCAR intends to increase Neftchi's funding. In recent years, the club's budget was only approved in summer, which resulted in delayed funding of transfers. It is likely that the budget will now be approved in January, in line with those of major companies.
Rustam Allahverdiyev, head of FC Neftchi press department, made an alarming statement: "We do not have any information about the approval of the budget. This always took place in May".
There are also discussions about new sponsors. To make Neftchi financially stronger and more self-sufficient, it is planned to have two more sponsors in addition to SOCAR.
What about the head coach?
Rest assured the new management will try to make sure the club shows stable performance during the national championship and compete in the group stage of European competitions. At the same time, the club will pay more attention to children's football. Therefore, Neftchi plans to open branches in the settlements and districts of Baku and become the capital's main football brand.
Neftchi's Supervisory Board is expected to meet again during the winter transfers to discuss the goals for the next two years. In particular, the management is not happy with the performance of 46-year-old head coach Laurentiu Reghecampf, who is on a two-year contract signed in June, and is thinking about new changes. It is expected that the coach will be replaced at the end of the season. The Supervisory Board is also considering a renewal of the Neftchi logo. The final decision will be taken in 2023.
After losing in the 16th round of the Azerbaijan Premier League to its main rival Garabagh (0-4), Neftchi has no realistic chance of winning the championship this season. Reportedly, the management demands the coaching staff to win at least the Azerbaijan Cup. If the season ends without championship, changes to the team and coaching staff seem inevitable.
We all remember that Neftchi (1937) won the gold medal of the Azerbaijan championship nine times, the last time in the 2020/2021 season. Neftchi is the first Azerbaijani team to qualify for the group stage of European competitions.