March 14 – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will be taking “blood money” by working for Russian state-backed channel RT during the World Cup, according to a British member of parliament.
Mourinho, whose team were knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla in the last 16 on Tuesday, has been signed up as a pundit for RT which is funded by the Kremlin and often perceived as a mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
The announcement that the Portuguese coach would be appearing on the channel came 24 hours after the headline-making news that a Russian ex-double agent and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent on British soil.
Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are still critical in hospital and British Prime Minister Theresa May says it is “highly likely” Russia was responsible.
Mourinho has refused to answer questions on his involvement with the channel – formerly known as Russia Today – since last week’s poisoning incident. The Times newspaper reported that he will be paid at least £1 million for five days’ work.
MP Chris Bryant told Britain’s Press Association news agency: “To my mind, this is blood money, paid directly from the Russian state coffers.”
Fellow Welsh MP Stephen Doughty agreed. “Leading sports figures and commentators need to reflect carefully on whether they want to be associated with Putin’s propaganda machine,” he said.
“RT has repeatedly conned viewers with a veneer of respectability, while taking its orders from the Kremlin. Serious questions are already being asked about participation in the Russian-hosted World Cup. I would urge leading football figures to rethink – not least after this week’s revelations – whether their punditry on Putin’s mouthpiece is appropriate.”
The Football Association has declined to comment on what the worsening relationship with Russia might mean for the World Cup but reports suggest it will not impact England’s plans to compete in the tournament.
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