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Big interview with Farid Zakirov about money and Uzbek football

In the world of Uzbek football, which is at the crossroads of its path, there are many things that have always been questioned. In recent years, reforms, one by one, have changed so quickly that no coronavirus is scary. A big problem in the administrative top of the Uzbek Professional Football League has led to the fact that Uzbek clubs in recent years are simply not competitive abroad. One of the reasons may be called lack of adequate funding. Many clubs live off the regional budget. There are no self-sufficient teams, but there are at least teams that want and can earn money.

Since June last year, articles about the German company AF Sports Reactive have appeared quite often in the Uzbek media. Since AF Sports Reactive burst into Uzbek football, memorandum agreements have been signed with local clubs, and a number of deals have been concluded with football organizations and athletes. “Uzbek cuisine” went to the office of the Representative Office of the German company LAUREA GERMANIA in Tashkent (Zakirov Farid Ravilievich is the founder of the consulting company LAUREA GERMANIA, represented in the Uzbek market by an accredited Representative Office since 2016), and talked with the manager of AF Sports Reactive

Zakirov Farid Ravilievich to understand who are they. And ask just one question: can Uzbek football really make money?

As a result, two and a half hours were not enough for a conversation. And the delicious hot coffee with sandwiches stepped in.

Farid, to begin with, please tell us how AF Sports Reactive is organized and what does it do?

On the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland (meaning Russian – February 23rd – E.R.), we are one year old since the de facto creation, which took place on the day of Lokomotiv’s victory in the Uzbekistan Super Cup on February 23rd last year. AF Sports Reactive is a German limited liability company which is registered in the Commercial Register of the Magistrate’s Court of Hamburg and is accordingly tax resident in Germany.

The main areas of activity are sports management and consulting, consulting, support for the career of athletes, regardless of the sport.

I read your interviews to the Uzbek media and almost everywhere the words “high-tech projects”, “internationalization”, “technologies in the development of football” were heard. Subscribers to “Uzbek cuisine” are more resourceful and simple people.

Please tell them in ordinary language what tasks are put at the forefront by your company?

Development of sports management and advice to football clubs in the search for possible solutions to achieve self-sufficiency. Solutions can include outsourcing sponsorship and thus building a link between the economy and sport.

Uzbek football, to put it mildly, is not considered profitable. When and why did you decide to enter our market?

In June 2019, AF Sports Reactive entered into a memorandum with PFC Lokomotiv Tashkent and appeared on the Uzbek market. We decided to develop this industry in the Uzbek market primarily on the basis of our positive experience in attracting sponsors to football clubs. We set ourselves ambitious goals in order to develop the commercialization and self-sufficiency of sports in Uzbekistan.

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Jalollidin Masharipov is a midfielder of the national team of Uzbekistan and Pakhtakor. The most expensive footballer of the Super League of Uzbekistan according to transfermarkt.

Tell us about the most important features of running a sports business in our country?

Today it would be not entirely correct and not at all professional for us to comment on the subtleties and peculiarities of running a sports business in Uzbekistan. We do not have detailed knowledge yet.

What innovations are you going to bring to the development of marketing in our football?

First of all, a systematic approach in the process of cooperation with external sponsors for football clubs. In addition, we will promote more effective cooperation between clubs and fans, since the fans and the audience in general of any football club is a fundamental element in building synergy between the economy and sports.

Do you plan to attract famous personalities as ambassadors?

Or is the development strategy not combined with information PR?

Of course, a fundamental marketing approach is required today for any product or service. However, fundamental marketing support requires substantial resources. Currently, the firm is just beginning to become self-sufficient without help from the founders. As a manager, I adhere to strict financial discipline, which I studied in a managerial position at the Bremen Cotton Exchange. After full self-sufficiency, I will offer the founders a marketing support program based on

and the experience of our long-term partners.

Were there moments, at least at the initial stage of being here, that this was all in vain?

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Based on the experience of building a business in other areas, I am well aware of the difficulties during the “construction” of a new economic entity. However, difficulties work out and improve discipline and self-organization. There was no desire to stop, as everywhere in Uzbekistan we meet hospitable and helpful people who are ready to help us!

Why do you think sports marketing is not as developed in the countries of the former USSR as in Europe or the USA?

Marketing, including sports, responds to the challenges in the economy of a particular industry. These challenges are driven by development and economic performance in a particular industry. Elementary, sports on the territory of the countries of the former USSR are, in the overwhelming majority of specific cases, subsidized and thus dependent on government subsidies. In the “old” members of the EU, the United Kingdom, North America and Japan, economic development has also swept over sports. In this regard, sport has also become an object of commercialization and the responsibility of private capital.

By the way, in addition to the Tashkent Lokomotiv, cooperation with the Jizzakh Sogdiana was also mentioned. Why exactly she, and not the conditional “Kyzylkum” or “Dynamo”?

I would like to point out the human factor here. Great credit for establishing partnerships belongs to the head coach of FC “Sogdiana” Jizzakh, Ulugbek Bakaev. I also express my gratitude to the director of FC “Sogdiana” Uktamzhon Makhmudzhanov, who listened to our proposals with great trepidation and is always ready to support our initiatives.

We are currently in contact with FC Bukhara and the Football Union of Uzbekistan and are looking for opportunities for fruitful cooperation. Our position is unambiguous: our doors are open to everyone! We look forward to new partnerships and hope we can be useful.

Elections-2018. Ulugbek Bakaev – as the personification of a new coaching wave in Uzbekistan

Earlier it was noted that the income from the Uzbek Intis Telecom Asia LLC will be directed to the budget of “railway workers”. Is this true?

Exactly! Last summer we supported the idea of ​​a British company and became one of the founders of INTIS TELECOM ASIA LLC. It should be noted that the new venture intends to implement the ideal idea of ​​supporting sports. Part of the profits of INTIS TELECOM ASIA LLC will be transferred to FC Lokomotiv Tashkent free of charge. I hope that other foreign investors will follow this example in Uzbekistan.

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You also said that Uzbekistan has good “human potential”. Who do you think is the professional in Uzbek football?

Among the citizens of Uzbekistan, I can safely highlight the first vice-president of the FAU, Ravshan Irmatov, vice-president of the Tashkent branch of the FAU, Alisher Polatov, deputy general director of PFC Lokomotiv, Tulabek Akramov, coach of FC Sogdiana Jizzak, Ulugbek Bakayev. These people have broad football competence and are always open to conversations on the development of football in Uzbekistan.

Tulabek Akramov and Farid Zakirov

How do you feel about the local cheerleading environment? Why don’t they get sick at the matches, as they do in Europe? And in many teams, there is a problem with attendance at all …

At the matches of Lokomotiv and Sogdiana, which I have already attended, I could talk to the fans of these clubs. The conversations left me with excellent impressions of these people.

The culture of the fans and the crowded stands in the championships of England, Germany, and in most cases in Spain and Italy is the result of the development of an entire cultural infrastructure over several decades and, of course, a sports “performance” at the highest level and with very high “speeds” of football itself in these championships. I suppose that if clubs in Uzbekistan worked properly with an external audience, there could be much more fans at stadiums in Uzbekistan. I was very pleased to read many comments from fans after posting on Instagram. This made it possible to make sure that the people of Uzbekistan are very fond of football and the phenomena taking place around football. Based on this, we can say that clubs in Uzbekistan have excellent starting opportunities for working with the audience.

I can also note that the attendance of Navbahor’s matches in Namangan can be the envy of some clubs even in Spain and Italy!

The unsubdued pinnacle of Uzbek football is not getting into the World Cup. Although, in the qualifying rounds, Uzbekistan plays well. Why, at the very last moment, you still can’t get hold of a ticket to the world championship?

I suppose that the coaches who were the head coaches of your national team can better answer this question. In sports, the strongest wins.

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You can follow Farid in IG @faridzakir

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