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Home News Russia checks football for bad loans, crony deals

Russia checks football for bad loans, crony deals

Published on 30/08/2012

Russian football edged toward fresh crisis on Thursday when auditors launched checks into suspected crony deals between its bosses and bankers that left the sport in heavy debt.

Russia’s Audit Chamber watchdog said it had included the Russian Football Union into its annual list of agencies responsible for reporting how its federal and other funding is spent.

Disputes between Russia’s historically bickering football authorities burst into the open after its national team returned home from the Euro 2012 championship in humiliation without making it to the knockout stage.

President Vladimir Putin eventually bowed to the pressure and fired Sergei Fursenko — a close ally from his native Saint Petersburg whom he had entrusted with 2018 World Cup hosting preparations — from the top football post.

The June dismissal and a seeming sense of despondency descending on Russian football quickly led to explosive allegations being fired against the sport’s old guard.

The Audit Chamber was responding to a request from a prominent lawmaker who wanted to know where the union had found the money to pay top world salaries to coaches such as recent hire Fabio Capello and his predecessor Dick Advocaat.

State Duma deputy Igor Lebedev noted that there was “a clear discrepancy between spending on a few foreign trainers and the funds assigned to football development.”

Lebedev soon made the phrase a part of his ultimately futile campaign to get himself appointed in charge of football.

But Fursenko’s ouster also led to the more dramatic and potentially criminal discovery of a 500-million-ruble ($15-million) debt the union held before a bank called Rossiya.

The Saint Petersburg-based institution has had a controversial history since its post-Soviet launch because of allegations that it had helped line the pockets of some of Putin’s closest colleagues.

The bank’s largest shareholder is Yury Kovalchuk — a billionaire who like Fursenko owned a villa in an exclusive Saint Petersburg area estate where Putin resided and from where some of Russia’s most powerful men recently rose.

The Vedomosti business daily reported that the debt was only discovered when Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko “discovered the documents in the (fired) Russian football union president’s safe.”

Officials said it was not clear if the ousted football chief intended to disclose the Saint Petersburg bank loan or when it was going to be repaid.