In these uncertain times, the citizens of Maribor have of late been afforded a veritable conveyor-belt of good news, all of which though must be tempered by long-term prospects that are for now being camouflaged by the sunlit-uplands of short-termism.
After three creditable draws against Sporting Lisbon, Schalke and Chelsea, NK Maribor have undoubtedly been unlucky to find themselves bottom of their Champions League group, despite the gulf in size and resources between the “Viole” and their trio of opponents. Whilst the inevitable publicity garnered from the favourable impression the team has made and, the terrific opportunity for visiting fans to see what Maribor and its wider region can offer the tourist, it would seem that the experience of eating at European football’s top-table is an adventure that won’t be repeated in the near future. Lying forth in the Slovenian Prva liga and with little hope of catching leaders BST Domzale, it appears that Maribor have fallen into the trap of not being able to transfer last season’s title winning form and their current success in the Champions League into a meaningful defence of their national title. Winning this year’s Champions League is now the only way NK Maribor will compete in the competition next season…
The recapitalisation of Aerodrom Maribor has renewed hope that a raft of new routes, both charter and scheduled, will make use of this chronically underused and underestimated airport. The new majority shareholders, Delavska hranilnica have so far been making the right noises but if Maribor’s airport is to be anything other than just the preserve of cargo traffic and private charters, the management need to back up their words with deeds. Time will tell but it is assumed the substantial investment entered into by this trade union backed savings bank will not have been parted with just to keep Aerodrom Maribor standing still and, lagging behind its regional rival over the border in Graz.
The third story of significant interest to recently come out of Slovenia’s second city has been the rescue package put together by Maribor’s Municipality, specifically the publically-owned bus company Marprom, to fulfill Pohorje’s winter schedule and in particular, ensuring the legendary women’s Golden Fox slalom race in January can remain part of the FIS’s roster. The deal between the previous operator, the now defunct SC Pohorje and Marprom has been legally ratified, ensuring ‘business as usual’ for the ski slopes and the lifts that service them. Drilling down into the detail of the deal though does not inspire confidence that Pohorje’s troubles are behind them, the short-term accord between the two parties coming to an end on March 31st 2015. What will happen then? Often plagued by poor snow-depths, there will inevitably be questions in the city-hall and from an electorate wearied by spending-cuts and high unemployment should the not inconsiderable €10,000 per month being paid for the privilege of operating the skiing infrastructure for the winter season, prove not to be good value. Again, the lack of snow that plunged SC Pohorje into oblivion could leave Marprom’s projected €2 million spend with a serious shortfall, should mild temperatures prevent the estimated two thirds of that amount being recouped through lift-pass sales. The city authorities in Maribor are caught in a difficult situation of not wanting to retain long-term control of a costly and often loss-making venture but dare not risk the losing of the prestigious and long-standing Golden Fox race from the World Cup itinerary, along with the attendant kudos, publicity and revenue.
Maribor has much to gain from having a successful football team, a thriving airport offering variegated routes and a fully functioning and accessible amenity at Pohorje. Without robust and diverse business plans to weather financial storms and, all important favourable meteorological conditions, the cyclical nature of sporting fortunes, the ephemeral tastes of tourists and capriciousness of alpine weather, especially at lower-altitude, means nothing in the medium and long-term can be assumed or taken for granted.
Additional reporting can be viewed at: The Slovenia Times: Pohorje winter-season secured