Much ado about something – The Tsar Returns

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A precedent was set in 2010 that played out at the election Saturday. In 2009-10 I was working with Sergey Kuzmin on his election campaign. His goal, become President of the Russian Football Union (RFU) and make Russian football a force to be reckoned with. He had the most solid platform of the three candidates and emphasising children’s football and making football popular. However as election day began, it was clear he’d not do much better than 2nd place and cause a split in the game. So he withdrew and gave his support to Fursenko, who duly won.

Saturday was deja vu. The morning was awash with rumours of Sports Minister and President of the RFU Vitaly Mutko being pulled into Vladimir Putin’s office and carpeted. Rumours of RFPL President Sergey Pryadkin withdrawing, of Igor Efremov, President of the FNL, the Russian second tier, being told to run and Gazzaev doing a rapster “make it rain” over poorly dressed regional delegates. However in the minutes before the speeches began, a Union insider told me – “It’s two, only two.” A Tsar was reborn.

Tsar-like quality

Skipping the pointless bluster and build-up, I arrived when it was at the business end of matters. Anyone who’s been to the Holiday Inn on Sokolniki will know it’s a confusing warren of a hotel with lots of nooks and crannies for dirty deeds to be done dirt cheap, or not so cheap. I nabbed my Union insider and we spoke in the restaurant being prepped for a buffet, post-election lunch.

“They have agreed I think. Gazzaev has a lot of support,” he said with a degree of worry.

As we spoke a tweet was tweeted – “Efremov pulls out in favour of Mutko.” Minutes later Pryadkin pulled out, in favour of Mutko. The die was cast and Sergey Kuzmin tweeted, “80-85% for Mutko.” As it turned out the difference was far less. Of the 408 votes, Valeri picked up 142 (34.8%) and this was a shot across the bows of the St. Petes elite. Sure, Valeri used his loot to make a fight of it, though there was substantial unease in the Hall.

Vitaly didn’t make any individual promises. He didn’t need to. He controls the sports budget and unless you want your club to file for bankruptcy in December, he’s the man you need to keep sweet. Though that’s not all.

“He’s a safe pair of hands,” the delegate from Chelyabinsk told me afterwards. “He doesn’t hide.” And therein lies the Tsar’s problem. He is willing to own up to problems and look for ways to fix them. But this is not Tsar-like quality. He needs to dictate more.

What to expect

There were markers laid down at the Holiday Inn. Aleksandr Shprygin was arrested, his office raided and his “Fan Union” booted out of the Russian football family. Being arrested in a toilet was par for the course for this archetypal Mammy’s Boy. He was, in fact, asked to leave quietly before entering the Conference Hall. He refused. He ran away and hid in the toilets. Masked police broke in and dragged him out. I saw this happen and it could not have happened to a nicer person.


Notorious sexual deviant Elvis Presley died bloated on his toilet, the bloated and corrupt Shprygin was dragged from a stall in shock that his ilk are no longer acceptable. In times of need, sports turn to whatever is present for succor. Shprygin’s destruction of Russian fan image home and abroad, theft of millions of rubles and pure idiocy has been removed. The replacement is promised to be far prettier, and more intelligent.

The elimination of the mastermind behind Rotor Volgograd’s manifold rise and demise, Rochus Schoch, from view was also completed. His humiliation in the election for a place on the Executive Committee (ExCo) was a clear statement that player’s rights are moving to the forefront. The chief example was the election onto a tightened ExCo of the ARFPU’s Alexander Zotov. Having become the recognised and respected voice of players in Russia, he now sits with the likes of CSKA owner Evgeniy Giner and Zenit’s Aleksandr Dyukov. Both of whom are supporters of improving the conditions players experience, so finally there will be a revolution. If only FIFPro take heed.

READ MORE: A Union of One – Russian Footballers Union

Fight for the Right – to host a World Cup

One of VMutko’s first jobs will be to keep the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The promise of further revelations from the Daily Telegraph (after showing up Sam Allardyce’s greed) will not sway the English media from their attacks on Russia. Yet, they might not benefit from the destruction of Russia. Germany, with their media claiming honours in reserving Olympic medals for legally doped athletes, could well take over hosting the tournament in 2018.

The removal of Shyprigin and his cabal of losers from the Russian football family should be a positive sign, yet yesterday the English media were having none of it. Spurs fans were being “instructed” on how to stay safe in Moscow. Which poses the question – are you serious?

Just 2 weeks ago, we could watch Manchester United and City fans “shamefully brawling in city centre”. And Holy God, as Miley would say in Glenroe, sure those poor Spurs fans had better watch out in their own native city. Where the day before there was open warfare on Manchester streets, we could watch “disgraceful scenes” at the the centre piece of the 100% doping free Olympic Games of 2012. Irony is only in the kitchen-y for the English tabloids.

Joking aside, Mutko and Russia has 9 months to steady the ship and ensure no scandals, in sport. There is much ado about nothing in most of the posturing by disgruntled English hacks, yet there is an agenda and they are playing to the English FA tune. If Russia is not clean as the driven snow by mid-June next year, the FIFA Confederations Cup will be scrapped and the 2018 World Cup given elsewhere. The threat is real, legal and already corporate sponsors like Coca Cola have put contingency plans in place. It’s going to be one very, very tough job for Vitaly.


Follow Alan on Twitter: @DangerKidsBooks

Author: Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and I worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13.

First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, now Hosting Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow and writing the odd article.

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