Local people aren’t particularly unhappy without their former football club, but it’s announced to return. This time it sounds like an alibi for Stadion Fisht standing empty.
Speaking to press agency ITAR-TASS, sports minister Vitaly Mutko assured the empty Stadion Fisht will soon receive an anchor tenant. Or not that soon, really, because it’s now expected to be revamped for the 2018 World Cup no sooner than in 2017.
"The Stadium will be handed over to the Krasnodar Region and they have everything at their disposal which abides to the standards set by FIFA. The stadium will soon have a football club. We will return the traditions of Sochi's Zhemchuzhina", Mutko stated to the internet agency ITAR-TASS.
While this may seem a relief for those fearing Fisht will drown in debt, it doesn’t have to end well at all. It’s doubtful one can even speak of Zhemchuzhina’s “traditions”. The club was founded in 1991 and already disbanded twice. Despite considerable publicity efforts it never earned a solid fanbase and only occasionally drew larger crowds, still under 10,000.
This was the case when Zhemchuzhina (or Pearl in English) played at the centrally-located stadium. Now the club is expected to move almost 40km south, 20km beyond city limits. This is where Fisht is located and whether the smaller town of Adler can deliver crowds for games is still a mystery.
Sochi and Adler don’t have significant metropolitan areas to draw people from, so unless the reinstated club gains huge popularity, Fisht will remain a white elephant after the 2018 World Cup.