Ilia Averbukh: We need contracts in figure skating, then there will be no childish questions about flowers
Ilia Averbukh about transfers from Eteri Tutberidze group and necessity of contracts in skating.
by Dmitri Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru dd. 13th August 2020
Ilia, for a long time you refused to assess the loud transitions between the schools of Tutberidze and Plushenko.
Ilia Averbukh: The transitions themselves do not concern me, this is skaters’ business. I would like to look at these events more globally. I’m surprised that coaches keep silent after the July transition. The problem has emerged, athletes are leaving by groups, coaches, Kostornaia switched after the terms of transfer window. It seems to me that the federation and the coaching community need to start a discussion and find a way to regulate these processes. Let me hasten to state that Evgeni is doing everything right, he develops his academy. There is a great saying: “If you can’t beat it, lead it.” But there must be rules. Otherwise, we will come to the situation when the coach will be afraid to go to the rink, and the skater will begin to blackmail him. Next time, he will not like overloads and will threaten to leave and start spreading notoriety about the coach. It is not ok.
Agreed, it’s not ok. How do you see the solution to the issue?
Ilia Averbukh: First, a clear transfer window. An athlete at the end of the season has two months to make a decision. So the coach understands with whom he enters the new cycle. Yes, there are force majeure things, the coach’s illness, for example. This should be stated additionally. If such rules apply, in the situation with Kostornaia, the skater must skip the season if he switched after the window was closed. So that a person understands the responsibility for such a transition. After all, it turns out that Tutberidze’s coaching team not only devoted time to her, but took it away from others.
Shcherbakova is hardly happy about two programs for her competitor, which went to the trash can.
Ilia Averbukh: Of course, the same Shcherbakova and others would have gotten more time if it had been known that Alena was leaving before June 1.
There should be more responsibility than just “I want to leave”.
Ilia Averbukh: Secondly, the personal contracts between a coach and an athlete. There is nothing wrong with them. We even had them at one time with Gennadi Karponosov and Natalia Linichuk. For example, a coach must ensure getting into the top three at the World Championships. In response, the skater undertakes to comply with all requirements during trainings. Up to the point that we, for example, had fines for obscene language during practices. It should be stated in the contracts if another coach or club wants to get a skater, they should pay compensation. It is an absolutely common rule, like in football or hockey, where there is compensation for early termination of the contract. Because tomorrow someone else will come. Plushenko is also not insured.
Now there are almost no mechanisms. You can only leave the athlete formally at your school.
Ilia Averbukh: The fact that Sambo-70 will receive points for Kostornaia in the Russian Cup is not a serious compensation. There should be more responsibility than just “I want to leave” The coach must be protected, and it will be better for the athlete himself. He is not a serf, he has two months to leave. But if he doesn’t make it to the top three, he can say to the coach: “Well, the conditions are not met, you did not prepare me for the competitions well, goodbye.” It will be fair. And reasons like “I was not allowed to jump”, like Trusova’s, despite the fact that she did four quads per program, this is strange.
Doesn’t suit you?
Ilia Averbukh: It turns out that first we scold Eteri for squeezing the maximum out of people, then for holding them back. This is not a sufficient reason for the transition. It happened on time from April to June, no questions. But an agreement on paper is needed, then Angels of Plushenko Academy would pay compensation for the preparation of the star, which it takes. If the athlete can pay compensation for himself, he’s welcomed. If it’s a minor figure skater then parents or guardians should sign. This will motivate the school to prepare champions. After all, Sambo-70 can use the received money to prepare new skaters. And when you prepare them only for other coaches to take them later, and you are left with nothing – what’s the point? I understand that all our schools are affiliated in one way or another with the state, but if we had the market system, we could close at all. Or spend all the money only on buying up athletes from each other.
But still there is a difference from football where the club pays the player’s salary. In “Sambo-70” Tutberidze does not pay Kostornaia, on the contrary, the parents provide for the children.
Ilia Averbukh: I’m talking only about responsibility, that it must be stated. We understand that there are many undercurrents. Remember the conflict between Plushenko and Tutberidze after Zagitova’s announcement in December? Then Eteri’s main claim to Evgeni was that he lured away her athletes. Maybe she sounded the alarm then and shouted to all of us: “I feel that they try to steal my athletes”? And asked to pay attention. This has always been in figure skating. But if behind this luring is not just a desire to lure an athlete, but an economic calculation, decisions will only become more balanced. For such an athlete I will give a certain amount of money – is it worth it? It is impossible to solve these issues ethically. Someone has an internal code, someone does not.
Then the direct question, how much does Kostornaia cost? Since we have a transfer market.
Ilia Averbukh: I can’t tell you that. Probably, you can roughly calculate ice hours, the work of coaches based on their salaries. But in general, this is not so important, an agreement between the parties before the start of cooperation is important.
It was like this with us – if a skater switches to another coach, then the losses must be compensated. If a skater or her parents sign a contract that stipulates compensation for a billion dollars – okay, that’s a billion. Everyone agrees on five rubles, than five rubles. If the skater is not satisfied with a billion, she will refuse at the negotiation stage and say to the conditional Tutberidze, Plushenko or Mishin: “You want to enslave me, I will go to another coach.” The contract can be for a year, two, three. This is all determined by coaches, school and athlete, parents. Because Eteri said right, as long as everyone wants medals, they are ready to sign everything. And when they receive it, the situation changes.
But let be honest Eteri Georgievna also knows how to take other’s athletes.
Ilia Averbukh: The question is, at what stage, but I do not argue. In general, I am talking about the system in general, I don’t support Eteri and I’m not against Zhenya. Let’s take Lipnitskaia. She was taught to spin so fantastically in Yekaterinburg, she came to Moscow with these spins. Why shouldn’t her first coaches, the school get compensation?
I have opened a big school in Simferopol. And I understand that as soon as our children get results, they will start to rush to Moscow. I myself am ready to help them to move. But the coaches working on the spot need to be motivated by something other than a monthly salary. Maybe we can come up with something more non-standard, for example, to mention previous coach and school in the protocols broadcasts during the next year after thetransition.
There is a problem, and it is big. You can’t hide your head in the sand and say that this is impossible in figure skating. The whole world lives on contracts. Yes, sometimes it’s hard, lockouts happen. But this is usual practice. Then we will not sink to the level of children’s sandbox and ask: “Where is the flowers for the former coach?” and will stop figuring out how many flowers should be brought.
You just need to add flowers to the contract. In the amount of compensation.
Ilia Averbukh: It seems to me that if contracts were introduced, the would be no flowers problems. Everyone will know that everything is fair, everyone got their piece of fame and the work was rewarded according to merit. And the bouquets can be up to skaters. At least they will not bypass each other for a kilometer.
Everyone is afraid. Because everything is so intertwined, family and different relationships. I see nothing wrong with the contract system and am ready to defend it. It’s like asking why young girls skate. This is not Tutberidze’s problem, these are ISU rules. So it is here – there must be rules.
Maxim Trankov said that skaters already have contracts with the federation, and this is enough. Are they not regulating enough?
Ilia Averbukh: They do exist, but other things are stated there. That the federation supplies equipment, pays for the training camps and the athlete gives a percentage of the prize money. You cannot participate in ice shows without the consent of the federation, in commercial actions without permission. For example, Trusova advertised a certain brand – according to the papers, this should be sanctioned by the federation. Here’s a different story. Although such contracts are also needed.
Do they have such contracts abroad? Alysa Liu also changed her coach this summer and it didn’t go smoothly.
Ilia Averbukh: America has a different system. 90% of the athletes pay the coaches for each lesson themselves, hour on the ice. They agree on a salary in advance, bring $ 200 per hour. Our salaries are incomparable with those in the West and the main income is from prize-winning athletes. Of course, some inner stories also take place there. But the approach is different, the market one, I am for it. Transfers should happen but be well regulated. Otherwise, we will slip into a financial monopoly. Or oligopoly, when two or three rich schools will divide the market.
Will the contracts take away the federation’s decision-making monopoly? Now the presidium can meet and decide each case individually.
Ilia Averbukh: Quite the opposite. What can the federation do now? Wrell, give Kostornaia’s points to Sambo-70, and that’s it.
Forbid the transition.
Ilia Averbukh: This has never happened in the history of figure skating. Because everyone understands that if there is a conflict, then it is impossible to stop the process. The Federation does not need to get involved. We are so afraid of contracts, as if it means some kind of distrust. On the contrary, signed papers are a more honest approach.