‘Football can manage without Russia’

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Roman Abramovich
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government

UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston says football can “manage perfectly well without Russian investment”.

The comments were made at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport session about the role of Russian money in both the ownership and sponsorship of clubs.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK because of links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s plenty of other investors around the world we can work with,” said Huddleston.

“Globally, there’s a lot of money in sport and in football and we can manage perfectly well without Russian investment or without Russia’s investment overall.

“I really cannot see circumstances for quite a long period of time where we are going to welcome that money back, I genuinely can’t.

“I don’t think it would be morally acceptable, it may in many cases not be legally possible because we will still have considerable sanctions imposed on many entities.

“I don’t think sport fans around the world and, in particular in this country, would find that acceptable either. They’ve spoken very loudly and clearly.”

Abramovich had his British assets – including Chelsea – frozen as part of the UK government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A special licence granted by the government will allow the club’s fixtures to be fulfilled, staff to be paid and existing ticket-holders to attend matches.

Russian football clubs and national teams have been suspended from all competitions by world governing body Fifa and European counterpart Uefa, among other sporting sanctions.

“In terms of how long those sanctions last, as long as Russia continues to be a pariah on the world stage, those sanctions will last,” said Huddleston. “Nobody knows but the person who is in control of that is Vladimir Putin.

“They will last for some time and, including Russia not being able to bid for major sporting events, it is going to be quite a while before we accept Russia back into the world sporting stage.”

A recent Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of Newcastle United has also led to controversy.

There are concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and Magpies manager Eddie Howe was questioned on the subject following his side’s Premier League defeat by Chelsea on Sunday.

The issue of club ownership, among other issues, was looked at as part of a fan-led review into English football commissioned by the government.

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch, the chair of the fan-led review, proposed a series of measures including an independent regulator to “protect the future of our game”.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters also said the organisation is reviewing its owners’ and directors’ test as it had “been under a lot of scrutiny for the last 12 months”.

“We are at a turning point in English football,” said Huddleston. “The fan-led review is pivotally important. We recognise there are failures in the structure and governance of English football.

“If it was all working perfectly we would never have needed the fan-led review.

“The fan-led review will be pivotal because it will contain an independent regulator, which is a fundamental change in the structure and eco-system of English football. It will include further information and measures around the owners’ and directors’ test so that itself says quite a lot.”

He added: “We should and do expect football to recognise where the problems exist and where possible sort them out themselves without the government having to come in and babysit and legislate on the nth degree of detail.

“Fans expect and require that as well. I still expect football to take its share of responsibilities. If it doesn’t act then we’ll legislate.

“I can’t say more now [about the response to the fan-led review] other than the fact that there will be a regulator and we will be looking at the owners’ and directors’ test.”

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