Sergei Pryadkin: Just who is Mutko 2.0?

The president of the Russian Football Premier League and vice-president of the Russian Football Union, Sergei Pryadkin is one of the most important and influential of all apparatchiks in Russian football. He is essentially responsible for the influential decisions behind both the biggest league in Russia and it’s links with the governing body.

In a recent interview with Russian news agency TASS, he weighed his rather heavy opinion on how the new Premier League season is undertaking and offered insights into new regulations on the prospective foreigner limit, salary caps and much more. We have covered the interview previously, but some may not know of him, so now we ask, just who is Sergey Pryadkin?

READ MORE: Sergei Pryadkin on Reforming the Russian Football Premier League

The Astrakhan-born functionary was a former reserve colonel in both the KGB and FASPI (The Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information) until 1984, before moving onto working for the Dinamo Sports Society until 1994. He left Dinamo to set-up GiRRus, a player agency based out of Charlottenburg, Germany, aided to support players moving between the two countries alongside with and indebted to the contacts and work of former Zenit St. Petersburg Director of Sports, Konstantin Sarsania. Thanks to this work, Pryadkin was granted a position to work within the annals of the newly-founded RFPL in 2001.

Pryadkin is also a member of numerous UEFA bodies such as the Council of Directors of the European Association of Professional Football Leagues, and UEFA’s Strategic Council, but has been involved in Russian football for over twenty-three years.

He worked under contemporary and close confidante Vitali Mutko, who was President of the RFPL until 2003, and after the Mutko was elected as President of the RFU, Pryadkin was also elevated to be his assistant, and by 2006 became the General Director under Mutko.

The latter proposed to nominate Pryadkin for the new post of President of the RFPL in October 2007 following on from Mikhail Vorontsov, and the executive bureau of the RFU voted unanimously for Pryadkin, who has held the role ever since.

In 2011, however, Pryadkin was investigated by the UEFA Ethics Committee regarding a conflict of interests over his dual posting as RFPL President and RFU General Director, as well as the work of his brother Andrei Pryadkin, an agent. It is was alleged that Sergei aided his brother in laundering over $400,000 from the transfer of Evgeni Levchenko to Saturn from FC Groningen, along with other transfers of Magomed Ozdoev and Branko Ilić, both to Lokomotiv Moscow. The RFU announced later in the summer that the “Ethics Committee did not discern any violations”. Levchenko, however, was undeterred and applied to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and the case is still undergoing further investigation.

In the same summer, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that his partnership with Konstantin Sarsania was likewise a conflict of interests, and appealed to FIFA to investigate. They accuse GiRRus, and Pryadkin more so of breaking FIFA’s Code of Ethics that the; ‘heads of federations, their executive bodies, leagues or clubs in election or appointment are required to report their interests related to football activities’, among other violations of the Regulations of the RFU. Pryadkin and Sarsania oversaw the transfers of; Martin Skrtel, Pavel Maresh, Radek Shirl, Martin Gorak, Eric Hagen and Kamil Chontofalski to Zenit. GiRRus also separately oversaw the transfer to Zenit of then head coach Dick Advocaat as well as orchestrating Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s move to Sevilla in 2006 and Kevin Kuranyi’s to Dinamo Moscow in 2010.

This was clear nepotism, and a worrying blurring of the lines and Pryadkin has a patchy history in actually improving the nation’s game, and is just one of many former KGB men high up in Putin’s regime. Sarsania, on the other hand, almost single-handedly transformed Zenit’s fortunes before their maiden title win in 2007, and his great stature is a dearth at the club today, and all are suffering as a result. Since his tragic death on 7th October, the Blue-White-Sky Blues have won just three games in ten in the league, losing to both direct title rivals Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. It is undoubted what Sarsania has done for Russian football and Zenit in particular, and is merely shrewdly taking advantage of a network he built, and connections he fostered.

Pryadkin, on the other hand, should not be so heavily involved in player recruitment and agent-dealings when he is the head of a governing body of Russian football and should have either stepped away from GiRRus in 2001 or refused the appointment. Stories of nepotism, cronyism and general corruption are all too common in the world of Russian football and politics, and Putin’s post-Soviet sphere. If the game is to move on it should not be with foreigner limits – one of Pryadkin’s favoured policies – but wholesale reform at the very top. Men like Pryadkin, Mutko et al are holding the nation back more than any other.

Even just recently he has discussed the foreigner limit in length, proposing a “10+15” limit.

It is fair to say that Pryadkin, like his mentor and confidante Mutko, is never out of the headlines, but when he speaks, the Russian football audience must listen. As begrudging as we all may be at times.

Author: James Nickels

Born and raised in South Shields, the direct mid-point between Sunderland and Newcastle in North-East England during an era of sustained success and European football for the Magpies, while the Black Cats floundered in the lower divisions, so naturally I decided to support Sunderland. I’ve developed an interest in Russian football over the last decade or so, but it piqued while studying for my Masters’ Degree in Russian and Soviet History, and I’ve been hooked by Spartak Moscow ever since. Considers Eduard Streltsov the best of his generation, and a fond proponent of his repatriation.

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