By Andrew Warshaw
December 27 – Under-fire Russian football supremo Vitaly Mutko has now stepped down as chief organiser of the 2018 World Cup having two days ago relinquished his role as president of the Russian Football Union (RFU) after mounting global criticism of his alleged involvement in the Russian doping scandal that has seen the country banned from Olympic sport.
As exclusively predicted by Insideworldfootball, Mutko had agreed to relinquish his role as president of the Russian Football Union, his latest humiliation after being removed in March from the ruling FIFA Council because of a conflict of interest. Mutko had enjoyed a seat at FIFA’s top table since 2009.
Insisting he is not resigning, Mutko said he was leaving his post for a period of six months to allow him to concentrate on appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the International Olympic Committee’s lifetime ban preventing him from attending any future Games.
“I’m not resigning, my mandate is still active. I will definitely return after the six months, perhaps earlier. For the period of the proceedings I will suspend my work at the Russian Football Union,” Mutko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
“So that our organisations are not disturbed during the legal investigation… I have asked to suspend my duties for up to six months.”
In his absence, RFU director Alexander Alayev will become acting president of the federation, telling reporters his goal would be to “keep stability” and “avoid any scandal”.
But the news that he is now moving away from his lead organising role of the 2018 World Cup to “concentrate on government work” looks like a clear attempt to distance the 2018 football event from the Olympic scandals that have damaged the reputation of Olympic and Russian sport.
Mutko said Alexei Sorokin will take over as chair of the World Cup 2018 organising committee. Speaking to R Sports he said: “There is still a lot of work, but I am absolutely sure that everything will be ready on time.”
It will be a bitter pill for Mutko to swallow as there is no doubt he has been the driving force in Russia in preparing the country internally for the arrival of the biggest sports event in the world. FIFA said it had “taken note of the decision”, while the 2018 organising committee spoke of its “great regret” at Mutko’s decision.
After announcing his decision to temporarily step down from the RFU presidency he said: “Regarding the issues of relationship with FIFA and the organising committee, as long as the president (Vladimir Putin) trusts me, I continue to work as deputy premier and oversee the preparations for the world championships.”
But it now appears the pressure was too great for him to continue.
Mutko, who has refuted all allegations of state-sponsored doping which, according to Canadian law professor Dr Richard McLaren’s explosive report that sparked the crisis, included 33 footballers, said he would “suggest” stepping down as chairman of the World Cup organising committee but “it would be decided by the head of state, the head of government and the supervisory board.”
In response to the RFU decision a a FIFA spokesman said: “FIFA understands Mr Mutko’s decision which was also taken in the best interest of the World Cup next summer. FIFA thanks Mr. Mutko for this responsible step and for the work carried out so far for the World Cup.”
“Mr Mutko’s decision will have no impact on the successful staging of the World Cup next summer, as FIFA, the Russian government, RFU and the local organising committee continue their fruitful cooperation on the preparations for the World Cup according to plan.”
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