Russian football execs target Zenit spending

14 January 2013 05:16

A top Russian football executive accused the natural gas giant Gazprom of tilting championships in Zenit Saint Petersburg's favour by lavishing extraordinary sums on President Vladimir Putin's home club.

Russian Football Development Foundation head Alisher Aminov called the practice of state and public company spending on popular clubs "a cancer" that allowed Zenit to become a perennial champion.

"The unscrupulous spending of (Gazprom boss Alexei) Miller and Gazprom indicates their impudence and impunity," Aminov told Monday's edition of the "Football Hour" weekly Internet broadcast.

"The Soviet Union once spent less on football club support than we do today, when the state spends around a billion euros a year," said Aminov.

"The share of state money in club budgets sometimes reaches 80 percent."

Zenit won the last two championships and three of the past five in addition to their 2008 UEFA Cup triumph -- a remarkable turnaround for a team that had only occasionally played in Europe for Russia and won the Soviet football championship just once in 1984.

The club enjoyed its reversal of fortunes the moment Gazprom -- Russia's largest company and the world's biggest producer of gas -- took a controlling stake in December 2005.

Gazprom then went on a wild spending spree that included last year's 100-million-euro ($134 million) purchase of the Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel and the powerful Brazilian forward Hulk.

Gazprom also sponsors German side Schalke 04 and has a contractual agreement with English giants Chelsea.

Aminov said it was time to scale back Gazprom's sports ambitions because the company was "wasting budget money".

"We need to bring in some financial fair play for the country's club funding," the Russian Football Union member said.

Source: AFP