The job of the PR manager of any football club is often underappreciated. Not only are they tasked with preserving and improving the identity of a sporting organisation, their duties and decisions often impact entire communities, cities, and even nations.
Some PR managers spend more time than the players, coaches and directors at the club they serve, and end up being witness to innumerable stories that last a lifetime. They work at their club with the utmost dedication, and attach feelings of love and passion to their job, something that is rare in this day and age.
We sat down with one such gentleman a while ago: FK Vojvodina’s Milos Subotin. A fan of the club and a travelled man, Milos has spent almost five years in Novi Sad in charge of the media operations at one of Serbia’s biggest clubs. His words offer a peek into life at a football club from a non-playing perspective.
How does it feel being the PR Manager of such a famous and renowned club like Vojvodina?
As a journalism graduate, a Master in Media Management, and also as a big fan of Vojvodina, becoming a PR Manager of the club was not just my professional goal, but also my dream.
Every day when I come to work, I come with pleasure and know that the day is another opportunity to help my club grow in stature and popularity. I do my job with enormous pride, enthusiasm and a lot of emotion.
I always bear in mind that there are lots of people who care about Vojvodina very much and that because of them, I have an obligation to do my work with the highest possible sense of responsibility.
However, working at Vojvodina can often be very hard and stressful. The club has faced lots of challenges in the past few years, and the dynamics in football, especially in Serbia, means that you never know what tomorrow will bring. Still, personally, I cannot imagine a better job in the world.
If you had to describe Vojvodina in a sentence, how would you do it?
Though they are two sentences, I would use the saying of Vojvodina’s biggest legend Vujadin Boškov. Although he had stints as a manager at clubs like Real Madrid, Feyenoord and Napoli, he once said: “Vojvodina is on one side, and all the others are on the other. This is how it was, and this is how it will stay forever.”
What are the club’s short and long-term goals?
On a short-term basis, the club’s aim this season is to qualify for the Europa League qualifiers and to win the Serbian Cup. On a long term-basis, the club wants to become financially stable, to develop its youth academy, to build a new stadium and to increase the average attendance during its matches.
How is Vojvodina different from the other big Serbian clubs?
Our biggest rivals, Red Star and Partizan Belgrade, were founded by communists after World War 2 and had the support of the Communist Party in Yugoslavia for decades; hence they managed to become big clubs. Even in the early years of their history, they had the best players and the biggest stadium in the country.
Vojvodina is a club that was founded by young intellectuals from Novi Sad all the way back in 1914, and has developed slowly over the years and decades. That is why today Vojvodina is different from its rivals.
Not only do we have a much longer and more authentic history, but we also have a much better academy output. Sergej Milinković-Savić is the best example, since his current value on the market is estimated to be around 70 million euros. While Red Star and Partizan have the possibility to sign any player in Serbia they want, Vojvodina has to create players on its own.
The problem is that they often leave early, since they attract the attention of big European clubs while they are still very young. This is why the club has difficulties in competing with the big two for major trophies.
There are many preconceptions people have about Serbian football relating to racism and violence. Can you tell us what you think of such statements?
With full accountability, I can say that there is absolutely no racism in Serbian football, nor generally in Serbia as a country. There are lots of players of different races who have played and still play in Serbia and most of them have felt very welcome in our country.
I think that all the negative publicity about racism in Serbia happened after the match between the under-21 national teams of Serbia and England a few years ago. This was when, during a match where the total attendance was about 10,000 spectators, a group of 10 people started yelling slurs at Danny Rose after he provoked the crowd.
It was a shameful and disgraceful act from the fans. However, it is wrong to declare an entire nation as racist just because of something that was done by a small group of people.
I have lived in lots of countries around the world (USA, India, UK), and I know that everywhere you can find someone who has destructive ideas and thoughts. However, I assure you that in Serbia racism never was and never will be an issue.
Regarding the violence, it is mostly attached to the fans of Red Star and Partizan. Even regarding this matter though, I don’t think that the situation in Serbia is worse compared to other, bigger countries.
Violence in football is a problem on a global level and Serbia is not worse in that case than any other country. I’m proud to say that Vojvodina has never had an issue of this ilk with fan violence, and this is what sets us further apart from the rest.
What is the best thing about working at Vojvodina?
Personally for me, the best thing about working at Vojvodina is knowing that you are spending your time and your energy usefully. The job isn’t simply to earn a cheque at the end of the month. Here, I’m helping a club that I love and care about growing.
Basically every day at Vojvodina is exciting and for me, it includes lots of travelling, not just in Serbia, but also in Europe, and all over the world. Also, at Vojvodina, we are all like one big family and that is why very often we are willing to go the extra mile and help someone even if isn’t a part of our prescribed duties.
Of course, like in every big family, sometimes there are arguments and unpleasant discussions, but we keep ourselves united and try to do the best for the club.
What do you think Serbian football needs to reach the next level?
Serbian football clubs since the days of communism under the Yugoslav regime have been owned by the state. I think that the first step needs to be a law which would allow people and companies to buy clubs and treat them as investments, just like Roman Abramovic did with Chelsea, Nasser Al-Khelaifi with PSG etc.
By that, I don’t mean that the club necessarily needs to be owned by one person, since for example, clubs in Germany who are organized in a way that gives their fanbase a lot of power. Of course, private ownership doesn’t always mean that the club will definitely progress, but I think that if it stays as it is right now, Serbian football will hardly go any further.
How important is the support of your fans, especially the Firma, to the club?
Fan support is something which is extremely important to Vojvodina, and without them, Vojvodina is not the same. In fact, Vojvodina had a registered fan club all the way back in 1937, which was the first fan club ever in Yugoslavia and one of the oldest registered fan clubs in the world.
The Firm (or “Firma” in Serbian) is the most loyal fan group of our club. They are located in the North stand of our stadium and they support the club no matter where Vojvodina is playing, in every stadium in Serbia or in Europe.
Their support means a lot to our players and because of that support our team performs better and gets extra power on the pitch. For the Serbian Cup final in 2013, around 11,000 fans in more than 100 buses went to Belgrade to support Vojvodina and that is the largest number of fans on an away match that any club in Serbia has ever had.
Of course, we also value the support of our fans from the East and West stands of the“Karađorđe” stadium and currently we are trying to attract more people to come to the matches together with their kids and families.