The Russian State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports is preparing a bill that would rquire Russian athletes to pay compensation in the event of a change of citizenship. The proposed payments would be determined by the amount of expenses that Russian organizations determine they have incurred to help train the athlete in question. The Russian Ministry of Sports would help calculate that total.
Russian news agency TASS got an early draft of the bill and has released the most relevant portion of the text.
If an athlete who is or was a candidate for the sports team of the Russian Federation is registered (declared) by a sports federation of a foreign state and (or) another foreign sports organization to participate in international sports competitions, such an athlete is obliged to make a compensation payment to the Russian organization/s that carried out his sports training, in the amount of expenses incurred for his sports training.
The wording of the bill leaves room for interpretation. It is unclear if passed if the bill will directly impact Russian hockey players departing Russia for the NHL. This offseason has seen two notable cases of the increasingly rocky relationship between the KHL and NHL impact teams. First, Russian phenom Matvei Michkov fell in the first round of the 2023 draft partially due to questions about his KHL contract and his desire to play in North America.
Secondly, Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ivan Fedotov signed a contract with CSKA Moscow despite having a valid NHL deal. That situation brought out a response from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
“We have confirmed to the KHL that Fedotov’s current contract with Philadelphia binds him to the team for the 2023-24 NHL season,” Daly stated. “To the extent that he plays in the KHL, this will be a violation of his existing contract in the NHL.”
This news from the State Duma comes months after the International Olympic Committee and many other international sports federations, including the IIHF, imposed sanctions against athletes from Russia and Belarus following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Athletes from those nations are not allowed to participate in international competitions under the flag of their countries. In some cases, they are allowed to compete but only under a neutral flag.
Due to those sanctions and other obvious geopolitical factors, over 200 Russian athletes have reportedly chosen to change their sports citizenshipd. Hence, this response by the State Duma.
“This is the money of our taxpayers, which should not be wasted,” Dmitry Svishchev, chairman of the committee told TASS. “Our committee is preparing this bill, according to which athletes will have to make compensation payments when changing citizenship.”
There are some exemptions provided in the bill. For example, if an athlete has not been a candidate for any Russian national sports teams in the last three years or if the athlete, their parents/guardians, or their legal representation (agent) paid for their training, they will be exempt from having to pay compensation.
“When an athlete gets into the national team, the state allocates a lot for him: training camps, equipment, the work of coaches, medicine, and so on – that is, he launches a whole machine to make a real champion out of this athlete,” Svishchev added to state-controlled Russian television network RT. “And now he, already ready for the podium at international competitions, wants to represent another country and change citizenship. We can, of course, wish him good luck. He has the right to his own life. But we also believe that the state can quite rightly claim compensation for the transition of such an athlete.”
Headline photo: Michael Parulava/Unsplash
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