By Andrew Warshaw
September 26 – Russia’s Sport Minister Vitaly Mutko, who became embroiled in the recent Olympic doping scandal, has been re-elected president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), crushing his only rival for the position to remain the country’s most powerful sporting official.
The 57-year-old, a supporter of newly elected UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, received 266 votes with former Russian and CSKA Moscow coach Valery Gazzaev gaining 142.
Mutko, whose first term as RFU president was from 2005-2009, took over again in 2015 in what was at the time a caretaker role after Nikolay Tolstykh received a vote of no confidences.
“It was not an easy decision for me to decide to run for the presidency again,” Mutko told RFU delegates after being re-elected, admitting that the 2018 World Cup hosts had considerable domestic football issues to solve.
“You know the situation in Russian football is difficult as we are experiencing certain problems. This is a crisis or a coma – everyone has their own thoughts. It is impossible not to see the fact that Russian football has huge potential and possibilities, but these are not being realised.”
Few officials anywhere in Europe command as much power as Mutko who is also head of the local organising committee of the World Cup and a member of the newly established FIFA council. FIFA does not allow government interference in football but has never fully explained why it appears to condone Mutko being able to carry out seemingly conflicting duties.
Mutko’s main task now will be to regain Russia’s credibility on and off the field as the World Cup draws ever closer following the debacle of Euro 2016 when the national team failed to win a single game while its fans were involved in numerous clashes, leading UEFA to warn Russia they would be kicked out of the tournament if there was any further trouble.
“Last year was very difficult for me. However, in a short space of time, we managed to consolidate things and started to move forward,” Mutko said.
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