MOSCOW: Senior Gazprom director Alexander Dzukov has been voted in unopposed to replace Vitaly Mutko as president of the Russian Football Union writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

In the end long-serving Mutko was finally removed from his last sports post after being buried under the weight of controversy associated with the Russian doping saga.

Dzukov, like Mutko, is a former president of Zenit Saint Petersburg and is believed to have been approved by President Vladimir Putin as the new face of Russian football as it seeks to capitalise on the legacy of the country’s successful World Cup hosting last year.

Gazprom is major sponsor of football not only in Russia but on the international stage including its promtional deal with European federation UEFA in and around the Champions League.

Alexei Sorokin, organising ceo of the World Cup hosting, previously succeeded Mutko as a member of the FIFA Council and the UEFA executive committee.

Dzukov, 51, has been ceo for a decade of oil division Gazprom Neft and is listed by Forbes as being among the 200 richest Russians with a fortune valued at €500m.

One of his priorities is to resolve ownership and funding plans for the new stadia built for the World Cup to try to prevent them turning into white elephants.

Dzukov told the RFU congress that he believes the venues in Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara and Saransk should all be managed by the local clubs and not by the local authorities which own them.

He said: “The regions should make maximum efforts to help these clubs in the form of increasing income so that the manage these stadiums and generate the necessary income levels.”

Dzukov is also open to the idea of playing some national team matches outside Moscow. The city council, seeking to reclaim some of its expenditure, wants all Russia’s matches to be played at the Luzhniki stadium which staged the World Cup Final.

However Dzukov doubts the wisdom for matches against modest opposition who would not attract capacity attendances.

Already the RFU has allocated European Championship qualifying matches to Saransk (against San Marino) and Nizhny Novgorod (against Cyprus).