December 20 – After weeks of conjecture about whether he is back in favour, Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, has finally thrown in the towel at the head of the Russian Football Union (RFU).
Mutko, who was banned from the Olympics for life because of the country’s doping scandals, stepped down as chief organiser of the World Cup last summer following mounting global criticism.
Evidence that he may have made a comeback was given credence last month by the fact that he was present at an RFU’s executive committee meeting, having also stepped aside from his role as RFU president late last year. But it has now been confirmed that he has definitely relinquished the RFU presidency and that elections with take place on February 22 for his successor. Sergei Pryadkin, RFU vice president and head of Russia’s Premier League, will run the show until then.
Having been accused of being involved in state-sponsored doping – allegations he denied – Mutko, who served as Russia’s sports minister from 2008 to 2016, confirmed he would relinquish the RFU presidency for a period of up to six months while he contested the IOC ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Even after formally stepping aside, however, he remained closely linked with Russian football and reportedly attended Russia’s training sessions during the World Cup.
No date has yet been set for Mutko’s CAS hearing but he played the straightest of bats in a statement to Tass, conveniently side-stepping any suggestion of wrongdoing despite having been removed some time ago from the FIFA Council.
“As president of the Russian Football Union, I was faced with the task of normalising Russian soccer, and then with a new challenge – the World Cup,” he said. “Overall these tasks have been fulfilled. I’m satisfied with the results of my work.”
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