Mutko set to take control of Russian football union
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is expected to take control of the country’s football association in September.
Mutko is running unopposed for the vacant presidency of the Russian Football Union after cutting a deal with his only rival in the race, nationalist member of parliament Igor Lebedev.
As well as his ministerial role, Mutko is also chairman of Russia’s 2018 World Cup organizing committee and a member of the FIFA executive committee.
Lebedev, the son of nationalist political leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told Russian news agency Tass he had pulled out of the presidential race because Mutko offered to support his bid for a position on the RFU’s executive committee.
Lebedev said he and Mutko shared an interest in developing young players.
“If we do that right, then in seven to 10 years we could have our own (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo,” Lebedev said.
Mutko was previously president of the RFU from 2005-09, when he resigned a year after being named sports minister.
FIFA said Mutko’s return to the RFU did not breach its rules against government interference in football affairs, which have in recent years led to suspensions for several countries.
“Generally speaking, it is not an issue per se as long as the conflict of interest rules and the other rules of conduct of the code of ethics are respected,” FIFA spokesman Alois Hug said in an e-mailed statement.