The timetable for the coming season will be broadly similar to the current campaign. Each team will play 62 games in regular season. For each stage of the Euro Hockey Tour there will be a six-day pause and the season will conclude 7 days before the start of the IIHF World Championship. In total, the season will run for 155 days, five longer than 2018-19.
The 2019-20 season will start on Sep. 1. The regular championship will run until Feb. 27 and the playoffs will take place from March 1 to April 30. The All-Star Weekend will be on Jan 18-19, 2020. The KHL World Games project will continue in the coming season and more information about this will be announced when the full schedule is unveiled on July 4.
The Committee of the Board of Directors continued its work and carried out checks on Spartak, SKA, Jokerit, Sibir and Torpedo, with Traktor and Ak Bars next in line. As a result of these inspections, a number of problems – some common, some specific to individual clubs – were identified and categorized. The KHL is developing a number of general recommendations to deal with common issues facing clubs and in future these will be integrated into the clubs’ activities. The KHL will continue with these checks and in the near future they will visit HC Sochi, CSKA and Dynamo Moscow.
During these checks a number of contracts came to light that could be termed ‘hidden’ loans. The Board of Directors has demanded action over this issue. A working group is to be established to regulate loan deals for hockey players (defined as temporary trades where the ‘parent’ club retains the rights to the player). The working group will include representatives of the KHL’s clubs and the relevant KHL staff. Either these ‘hidden’ loans will be banned, or they will be permitted within a regulatory framework. The working group is expected to submit its report no later than Oct. 31, 2019.
Thanks to a tougher stance in respect of delays in paying salaries, and tougher sanctions for teams that fail to comply, the KHL can report positive signs compared with previous seasons. In the current campaign two teams – Slovan and Torpedo – found themselves facing wage arrears while Sibir had unpaid debts connected with the termination of contracts. For comparison, in 2017-2018, six clubs ran into debts while in 2016-17 the problem affected 11 teams. The total amount of monies owed by KHL clubs was down 25% compared with the equivalent period last season.
The KHL will continue its work to ensure that wages are paid on time. Several clubs still have unresolved questions over salaries from previous seasons. In the case of Admiral, the club has the financial reserves to meet all of its obligations after the court decision. Admiral faced no new delays or failures to pay salaries during the current season.
All clubs must meet the KHL’s requirements over the provision of supporting documents to confirm the club’s budget, guarantees of the organization’s funding, and the absence of any unpaid wages to players and coaches. All but two clubs provided the necessary paperwork ahead of the deadline; Dinamo Riga and Slovan requested an extension to produce the relevant documents. The Board extended the deadline to April 30, 2019.
“Slovan and Dinamo Riga asked for an extension. This is technical matter, relating to accounting years of their partners and the details of international laws. There’s no whiff of scandal here – had there been, we would not have approved the extensions. If the clubs can’t produce the guarantees, they won’t play. Yesterday I met with the owners of Slovan and they presented a plan which should, if it can be realized, ensure the team continues to play in the league and to be competitive,” said KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko.
Participants in the meeting were invited to review the results of the latest performance assessments, complete to the end of the regular season. The integrated assessment is intended as an advisory document to help the board make decisions about the clubs competing in the league. It is not a ‘league table’ with automatic penalties or rewards.
Dinamo Riga showed the greatest progress, climbing seven places compared with last season. Finland’s Jokerit Helsinki climbed to the top of the table, overtaking SKA and CSKA. Sibir and Sochi suffered the biggest drops, down six and five places respectively. A round-up of the data and additional information will be provided on May 28 during a meeting with the Directors of KHL Clubs.
After reviewing all the materials provided by the KHL, the Board of Directors confirmed that the championship will continue with 25 teams. The board noted that excluding teams located on the edges of the KHL map could pose problems in assigning teams to the four divisions and may negatively impact the long-term development of the league. In response to this, the board called for the establishment of a working group to consider the composition of the KHL’s divisions in the event of new teams expanding the geographic reach of the league.
“The league has serious plans for further development in both the Far East and in Europe,” said Chernyshenko. “We are discussing many options, both in the east and the west. I haven’t heard anything about two Korean clubs; we hoped that after the Olympics they might create a team, but we don’t see any initiative at present. In contrast the Chinese, despite some short-term difficulties with arenas, are playing to establish a second KHL-level club. There is genuine interest in Japan while Uzbekistan has opened a new arena and will have a team in next season’s VHL.
“Among the European nations the most likely are France and Germany. It’s not worth waiting for a new location that will please everyone. It’s a question of priorities: if the involvement of a team from one or other country contributes to the development of the game, then these problems can be managed.”
“We are seeing greater equality between our clubs. The gap in the playing budget between the top five and the bottom five reduced by 15% this season. We will continue to take steps to make the KHL a more even contest. At present, 17 clubs operate within the salary cap, eight are in the risk zone. Four of those will have little difficulty in complying, the remaining four top clubs are in a more complicated situation. The excess reflects an overpayment on players for the second, third and fourth lines compared with rival clubs. This is an area which can be optimized.
“The KHL has clear guidelines for the implementation of its decision – there will be a hard salary cap! In the working groups, we considered a proposal for a cap of 600 million rubles (approx. US$9.25 million) and two additional ‘marquee signings’ outside of that cap. In the end, though, we opted for a total budget of 900 million rubles (almost $14 million) Players under the age of 21 are cap-exempt. Currently that is 20% of the players in the league and I think this is a clear motivation for clubs to develop young players. A hard salary cap makes it easier to see top players representing more clubs around the league. We are still offering 2.5 times the salaries available in other European leagues,” Chernyshenko concluded.