The Case Of BATE Borisov

Rebus offers some thought provoking words on how Celtic can adapt to our position in the new world order of football….


Is Experience Enough: The Case of Bate Borisov 
FC BATE Borisov are the current champions of the Belarusian Premier League. BATE have a particular way of conducting their soccer business. Could Celtic take a lesson from BATE?
Bate are by far the most successful club in Belarus, having won a total of 12 titles, and having achieved the much sought after ten titles in a row. Is there anything to be learned from their approach to running a club? Let’s start by examining their domestic performance.

Domestic Record :
As of July 18, 2016 BATE are sitting top of their league with a lead of eight points over their nearest rivals and are well on track to make it eleven championships in a row. To date they have accumulated a total of twelve titles plus numerous national cups. This may not seem like much when set against our haul, but a quick look at the history of the club proves that it is impressive. The club was first established in 1973 and, although they won three championships, they ceased to operate in 1984. This was not due to poor financial management, unlike some, but they were originally a factory team, and when the Russian Economy went pop they lacked the funds to continue. The club was re-established in 1996 and has won the league twelve times since then. They play out of a modest stadium with a capacity just over 13,000 in the city of Barysaw which has a population similar to that of Aberdeen. The national team also plays out of this stadium.
Whilst, BATE have an enviable domestic record, it is their performance in Europe that provides food for thought. Can we learn anything from their European experiences?
European Record:
BATE are the only Belarusian team to make it to the group stage of the CL. They achieved this in the following years:
2014–15 and
During their lean years when they did not make it to the CL, they qualified for the group stage of the Europa (2009–10 and 2010–11). Examination of the UEFA club coefficient shows that Celtic are ranked 41st whereas BATE are in 54th position. However, these rankings hide the fact that BATE are increasing their coefficient at a far faster rate than Celtic. Overall, a very creditable record, especially for a new club.
Basic Comparison between Celtic and BATE:
The following table compares Celtic with BATE. Celtic’s value is nearly three times that of BATE. We have a younger squad, or to put it more accurately, a squad containing fewer older(experienced?) players.
BATE’s squad is comprised, mainly, of local players and they have never broken the bank to buy a player. Their highest transfer fee is well under a million pounds. So, all in all, a more modest operation than Celtic, but not in terms of its performance in Europe.
Celtic                                          BATE
Squad Value(£m)                                                                  43.61                                           15.64
Squad Size                                                                               30                                                 22
Ave. Age                                                                                   24.7                                             27.1
Record Transfer(£)                                                              ?                                                   680K
Foreign Players                                                                     17(57%)                                     5(23%)

Continuing to analyse their transfer policies we see substantial differences. Celtic have earned far higher sums from their transfer activity. The following table illustrates Celtic’s greater dependence on net transfer revenue. For example, in 2013/14 Celtic earned £14 million more in transfers than they paid out; BATE earned less than 1 million.
£m                               12/13           13/14             14/15               15/16
Celtic                          4.3                 14.0              11.3                   3.4
BATE                         4.3                 0.8                1.0                    0.8

Over the five year period in the table Celtic’s transfer revenue ranged between a low of£ 7.3 to a high of £27.2 million; whereas BATE’s ranged from £ 1 to 4.7 million. Clearly, Celtic use transfers as a major revenue source whilst BATE look to another source for additional revenue.
Interestingly, BATE most valuable player is a 27 year old Serbian international CH, Nemanja Milunovic valued at £2.13 million…definitely within our price range.
Why have BATE been so successful? Well, that is a tricky question to answer. If it were otherwise others would have duplicated BATE’s success. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that may have accounted for their performance.
Since their establishment in 1995, BATE have only had 4 managers. The first manager was there for 8 years whilst the one before the current manager remained for 6 years. Even the manager who stayed for 2 years served 4 years managing the reserves before moving up.
Over the same time period Celtic had 10 managers. So, BATE have had a much more stable management environment. This does not happen by chance. Several of the former managers are former players for BATE. They raise their own.
Take one of their managers, Viktor Goncharenko. Goncharenko was a BATE player whose career was cut short at 25 by injury. He became a part of the coaching staff at Borisov. Over the next two years he developed his coaching skills to the point that, in 2007, he was offered the manager’s job at age 27.
Goncharenko was in the same age group as many of the players and younger than one or two! He was left to his own devices to coach the team since the ownership of the club adopted a hands-off approach.
So, Goncharenko could experiment with new tactics, and he turned BATE into the premier club in Belarus, even although Minsk has a much larger population. Probably, the highlight of Goncharenko’s time at BATE was in 2011/12 when he guided BATE Borisov into the group stage of the CL. More success was to follow the next season when Goncharenko coached BATE to a shock result over Bayern Munich, winning 3-1.

He was just 31. Revenue from the CL campaigns has allowed BATE to build a new stadium which acts as a magnet for young players from Belarus who want to be spotted by a big club from Russia or Western Europe.
Foreign Players
Celtic has a much higher proportion of foreign players in their squad than the Belarus club…57% versus 23%. In fact, 6 of the starting eleven against the Imps were foreign players. Four of the seven subs were foreign.
In contrast, in BATE’s last game in the CL qualifying round only one player was foreign.
BATE focus on homegrown players.
Age of Squad
On average, the BATE squad is older than Celtic’s…27 years vs 25. However, these averages do not reveal the true distinction between the two squads. BATE’s last game in the CL was on July 12 against the Finish team, Seinjoki. The result was a 2-0 win for BATE. Only two of the starting eleven were under 25. In addition, there were 3 outfield players over 30 in the starting lineup, the oldest of which scored the second goal.
Probably their most famous player is Alex Hleb who started with BATE and went on to play for top clubs in Europe(Barcelona, Arsenal) before returning to play for BATE in the twilight of his career. Many former players take this career path, starting with the club, moving to more lucrative leagues and then returning to play in their home country. This, of course, can only work if you start with a strong base of local talent in your team.
BATE’s relative success has meant that the club has to contend with the fact that its most talented players will move on to bigger teams in Russia, Ukraine, and Western Europe.

BATE’s chairman, Anatoli Kapski has outlined the club’s strategy:

“every year some homegrown players emerge and we count on them… About half of the first team came through our youth academy. We are a successful team, but to stand firmer on our feet we need to capitalise on our achievements. That is pretty difficult to do in the current market climate in Belarus, but we try to get stronger every year anyway.” 
BATE is seen as a shop window by young players to display their talent. This attracts talent from Belarus but also from other small post-Soviet Republics such as the Baltic States.
Kapski has indicated that the club will not pay large transfer fees for players by European standards. He fears that such stars would look down on his youth players and disturb team harmony. Rather than pay transfer fees he prefers to develop the club’s infrastructure.
BATE Borisov are an example of a club from a small footballing country that has succeeded on the European stage consistently. Their 2015 campaign in the CL brought almost 13 million euros into their coffers. Their European success allows them not to be as dependent on the” buy low, sell high” model employed by Celtic. Whilst the latter may satisfy financial objectives, it causes difficulties in producing a consistently successful team. BATE realise that their better players will move on but they have a highly effective youth academy that is geared to provide replacements. The performance of the team is maintained by bringing in older players (often former players) to provide necessary experience. These players are brought in, at little outlay, purely to provide experience and with no thought of realising a profit through future transfer. Each part of the organisation(Executives, Managers, players and youth) understands the culture that has been developed and how they fit into it.
Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from BATE is that a small club from a small nation can craft a successful strategy that satisfies both financial and footballing objectives.

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Paul McGovern
4 years ago

I wonder if their fans moan a lot?

Charlie Saiz
4 years ago
Reply to  Paul McGovern

Funny I was thinking that too.
4 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Saiz

go and support them then

4 years ago
Reply to  Paul McGovern


Is that not part of all fans of all clubs? If there is 30000 at a game there will be 30000 +1 managers present, analysing the game.


4 years ago
Reply to  Rebus67

Yes and all of them as amateur as amateur could be. With high opinions of their own opinions. Such is a football crowd
4 years ago
Reply to  BroxburnBhoy

as amateur as a lincoln red imp. Youll never live to see those amateurs beat us. make supporters pay for the privilege of voicing opinions I say.

4 years ago

Good idea it might discourage the crap we hear and read everyday and we could donate say a quid for every stupid opinion and put it toward the transfer kitty. Fred pure genius mate! We be rich!

Conor M
4 years ago

The dependence on transfer fees we rely on has to be linked with wages we pay.

Being a neighbour to the behemoth premiership and even english championship distorts both success expectation of fans and the players wage expectations – both ever widening. BATE players are always a couple of transfers away from the major leagues, therefore easier to build a team without being cherry picked every summer – our players are closer to temptation of a move due to exposure and proximity.

4 years ago

Really good article. We seem to be lacking the blend of older, experienced players to support our many young, promising players. Loathe to say it but it may be that the tribute act have got this about right for the coming season.

4 years ago

Rebus, Thanks for that,i have long wondered why they are so successfull in comparison to the Tic.
The 55k season ticket sales compared to theres must play a part,it would be interesting to know there S.T. prices.
Other points of interest are they hampered by a media,whos sole interest is in promoting one club?
Are they governed by an Association,whos sole ethos is bent to accomodate one club.
Do there referees have membership of secret cabal?
All things need to be considered,including the so called religious rivalry between the tic and the huns,cos surely that must have a bearing on the way our supporters and club are under huge pressure to be successfull,otherwise we are pilloried by the institutionally biased media.Which does not offer us the oppertunity to play younger players and attempt new ideas. H.H.

Conor M
4 years ago

I believe the single greatest diffence between both clubs is geographical location.

We are located beside the behemoth of the premiership – with the chapionship not far behind. The wages on offer have spilled over to us – we are paying extrodinary amounts on ordinary players. We can never increase our age profile and create a mature team as our better players are cherry picked every year.BATE players are in the main more than one transfer from the major leagues Our better ones are always looking south – their expectation of coming to Celtic is to use it as a stepping stone, decent wage and exposure due to location makes us attractive for a period but not for a career.

4 years ago

I agree with Mike,guy speaks the truth

4 years ago
Reply to  Tamtim


Thanks for the comments. While it is true that Belarus is not Scotland, there are many similarities between the environments that both clubs operate in. Both Belarus and Scotland have to operate next door to huge, richer markets that draw off the better players. The difference is that BATE do not get the level of transfer fees that Celtic have attained.
Another similarity is that, on a popoulation basis, Minsk shoulld be the top club. There is a strong rivalry between BATE and Minsk. However, I do not know what the attitude of the media is towards both clubs nor do I know if there is prejudice. What we have to remember is, whatever their domestic environment, BATE have succeeded on the European stage consistently. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Celtic.

A united culture within the club(top to bottom);
Stability of management;
A strong academy;
A recognised promotion system from youth through to first team;
Recruitment of experienced players that have no sell-on value

…..all of these aspects working together have made the difference and allowed BATE to overcome any obstacles in their environment.

Rebus….enjoy your night tomorrow…..wish I could be there to meet ye all.

4 years ago

The fixation with sevco is the problem. The board had a reasonable amount of time to bring on youth, instead we have seen the usual, pile them i n cheap and sell high.
There is no long term plan, possibly Delilah was, but he should have been brought in as an assistant, not manager.
Yes the fans moan but they are entitled to. They pay their money.
Wednesday’s game had more young players in the team, that is the way forward, if we lose a few SPFL games we will still win the league, the media are in overheat about sevco, but their defence sucks.
4 years ago

know your place

4 years ago

Excellent article Rebus. Lyon, although on a bigger scale have also did the same for years. Celtic did this most successfully in the 60’s. Now we are reduced to talk of a “wildcard” signing. Good grief !

4 years ago
Reply to  SteveNaive


I discovered Celtic in the mid sixties. The Conachan final is my earliest memory of the team. I am not a traditional supporter of the club. I was raised in a protestant household, although not a practising one. I have no Irish heritage but am proudly Scottish. I was drawn to Celtic because they signed non-Catholic players and seemed to have an open to all philosophy. Whereas the other lot……..,!!

Nearly sixty years later I still support the club even although it can only be through TV. Having said that, I am dismayed as the club seems to make the same mistakes over and over again. There seems to be little foresight plus some departments of the club have not functioned properly for years. These include scouting and recruitment and communication. There are lessons to be learned from other clubs but we seem to just plough on doing the same things and hoping for better outcomes. Not acquiring a CH by this stage of qualification is, frankly, unprofessional. Losing to Astana will cost the club more than the 2-3 million it would cost to bring one in! So it makes no football or financial sense to be in this position.

I do not wish for the moon for my club, just that they be the best that they can be. That has not been the case for at least three years.

Rant over


4 years ago

It is my opinion that our biggest focus should be on youth development. I would take a couple of lean years in Europe if it meant a higher proportion of well trained academy players in the team. Too often we are relying on luck in the transfer market due to not being able to pay huge transfer fees or exorbitant wages. I do think our scouting system could be improved as well but think we should be looking mainly at our own academy. Most of the Scottish players getting regular games at Celtic didn’t come through our academy system.

4 years ago
Reply to  el_guapo


No problems with any of that.


4 years ago

Rebus, good piece, thanks.

iljas Baker
4 years ago

Good analysis Rebus. Wonder if you could do a piece on the Celtic Academy. How much of a failure is that and why?
The fact that most of the Scottish players getting more or less regular games didn’t come through the Academy suggest a failure of the scouting system even in Scotland – they’re not getting the best youngsters into the Academy. Or is there something else deeply wrong? Flair players like McGeady and Forrest who did come through seem injury prone and indisciplined. No goalkeepers. Few defenders.I’d really like some insight into the Academy set-up.

john young
4 years ago

the demy will struggle regardless of who is in charge produce players that have the physical requirments for the modern game

4 years ago

Supporters already pay for the priviledge of voicing an opinion. It is called a season ticket. refusing to criticise the board, manager, team and pretending everything is OK is the worst thing a supporter can do. Celtic are not good enough. Celtic have not been good enough for years, certainly not for the size of club they think they are. celtic are in danger of becoming an irrelevance focused on an outdated and actually dead rivalry, which is a curiosity rather than a real football rivalry. Do you think that bate and other Eastern european clubs prioritise their domestic games over qualification for Europe. No, they plan for European qualification. Meanwhile our board celebrate the return of a club that has cheated them for years as they have no ambition.

4 years ago
Reply to  john

” They think they are “?
You just showed your red hand …..

You mad about ETims or just plain mad? Why not buy the t-shirt at