Arkady Dvorkovich has been appointed as the new chairman of Russia’s local organising committee (LOC) for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, replacing fellow deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko.
Dvorkovich, 45, is considered a close ally of Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and a key player in Russian politics, and will now take over the role of coordinating the international soccer tournament at a government level.
“Fifa has acknowledged the appointment of deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich as the LOC chairman,” a spokesperson for Fifa, soccer’s global governing body, told Russian state news agency Tass. “We will continue to work closely with the LOC leadership through Dvorkovich and the LOC chief executive Alexey Sorokin on all operational matters ahead of the 2018 Fifa World Cup.”
The news comes after it was initially reported in December that Mutko would step down as chairman of LOC and the Russian Football Union (RFU), while retaining some involvement in the 2018 World Cup planning process. However, Dvorkovich’s appointment seemingly means that Mutko will no longer play a role at government level in delivering the tournament.
Mutko confirmed he would be leaving the roles to fight sanctions imposed on him by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for his alleged involvement in a state-backed doping system implemented for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games - an appeal which he plans to take to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
In December, the IOC banned Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, after finding evidence of an “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of doping results surrounding the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov was also suspended as an IOC member, while Mutko, who served as sports minister when the Sochi Games took place, was banned from participating at future editions of the Olympic Games.
Mutko has not received any sanctions from Fifa, but Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower behind the uncovering of Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, told the Associated Press news agency last week that the former sports minister issued orders to cover up doping in soccer.
Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory which oversaw drug testing at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, claimed an instruction to “avoid any scandal” came from Mutko, ensuring that “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”