Speaking to SBC, Nikos Chalikias Chief Executive of Eastern European focused online sports betting operator Favbet states that Russia 2018 will be a test for all football and betting stakeholders.
Chalikias an expert in industry CIS dynamics, details the numerous intricacies and challenges that bookmakers will face in the most unique of FIFA World Cups. Furthermore, Chalikias outlines the importance of World Cup 2018 to Russia as the host nation.
SBC: Hi Nikos, thanks for the interview. Can you detail from a Russian perspective the importance and significance of the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup? What is exactly at play for Russia as the host nation?
Nikos Chalikias: Thank you SBC… Since Russia is one of the world’s most powerful and influential nations, from a sports stakeholder perspective this can only be seen as a vindication for the nation as its hosting world football’s biggest and most important tournament.
After 20 organizations since 1930, when it all started, Russia 2018 needs to demonstrate the country’s stability, for both political and social factors, we are talking about a nation of several intricacies and complex social dynamics.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that the particular event equals a unique opportunity for Russia to reverse the impression that has been implied of the country, in terms of its hospitality and infrastructure capabilities. Many viewed Russia as a controversial choice for World Cup 2018 host, the nation now has to prove western doubters wrong.
SBC: The largest country in the world, with diverse weather conditions and differing time zones, how will this impact world cup planning…What should betting stakeholder be aware of?
NC: Frankly speaking, these factors were my initial concerns since Russia won it’s 2018 bid. Undoubtedly, Russia’s tournament will be a somewhat of a case study phenomenon for all football stakeholders involved having to factor the impact of managing 11 different time zones!
However, FIFA have organised an effective schedule eliminating some concerns on timezones and player travel. There are only 3 stadiums of an hour difference of Moscow time. The majority of World Cup 2018 will be held mainly in the west part of Russia, so time zone concerns have been mitigated to a certain extent.
With regards to the weather conditions, I would advise all football fans worldwide to watch Russia 2018 in order to realize that temperature will be almost ideal for playing football during summertime. It may be colder than at previous tournaments, however, I firmly believe that this is exactly what football needs after the World Cup being hosted in Brazil and South Africa in 2014 and 2010 respectively.
SBC: What realistic hopes and expectations do the Russian public carry for their national football team, which has underperformed in recent major international tournaments. How important will it be for Eastern European market bookmakers that Russia carries momentum into WC 2018?
NC: Well, expectations and reality are always two different dynamics. Looking back at previous World Cups, each tournament host holds an extra motivation to perform. Russian home support will be a crucial factor, especially when it comes to their fans, this is something that cannot be underestimated.
However the Russian team does have clear flaws, the majority of National Team players play in the Russian Premier League, with very limited experience within European top-tier Leagues such as Premier League, La Liga or Bundesliga.
Looking forward to the tournament, if Russia qualifies from the group stage, it will no doubt add an intriguing dynamic to the knock-out rounds that follow.
From a betting stakeholder point of view, I do not expect significant changes when it comes to the way Eastern European consumers behaviours and preferences, as they are familiar with the football and quality of top European leagues and players. So, they will bet accordingly.
Anyhow, in case Russia qualifies from its group stage, we will definitely come across difficulties to price up Russian matches and outrights in order to avoid one side overload.
SBC: For World Cup 2018, How much time and preparation will Favbet undertake in covering a market as unique and diverse as Russia. What advantages do you feel your firm has for Russia 2018 over its competitors?
NC: It’s well known that Favbet is a traditional football bookmaker, well established in CIS markets for almost two decades. We have never kept it as a secret that we are mad about football, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that Favbet is nominated for the award of Football Bookmaker of the Year 2017, among leading companies, such as Bet365, Unibet and Skybet in SBC awards 2017.
Setting our sights on World Cup 2018, we are already working on a specific action plan, aiming first of all to reward our loyal customers, who are constantly supporting us all these years. Our philosophy revolves around the maintenance of our good name and reputation in the betting field since we would never utilize the WC 2018 for superficial profit.
The only tip I am allowed to give you at this point is that we are planning to launch a service that will change the existing online betting landscape.
SBC: Finally…Could a successful World Cup 2018, change the Russian government strict stance on sports betting and open the market, or is this simply Western wishful thinking?
NC: That is an interesting question to say at least! Being honest, I always avoid answering questions of jurisdiction-based processes, since that particular field does not really apply to my expertise and I cannot comment on Russian political objectives with regards to betting or gaming.
Undoubtedly, there is great uncertainty and delay when it comes to gambling legalization. However, I strongly believe that what should be done is to fully implement a functional regulatory framework to be applied to all stakeholders. Even with delays and the implementation of an inadequete solution focusing only on gaming/betting tax charges, as has been the case in many European jurisdictions, Russia can push towards a proper regulated betting framework.
Nikos Chalikias – CEO – Favbet
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