With the 2018 World Cup firmly on the horizon, Russia has forced out its man in charge.
Amid serious financial strains, the Russian Football Union voted out president Nikolai Tolstykh by a 235-196 vote at the recent RFU congress. He has been replaced by 88-year-old deputy Nikita Simonyan on a temporary basis until a new election can be held.
According to an AP report, the RFU is in $28 million of debt and ran a loss of $3.4 million last year alone. Much of the controversy surrounding Tolstykh began with the re-signing of current manager Fabio Capello to an unprecedented $7.5 million-per-year contract extension in early 2014, so high a value that the Russian federation was unable to pay him for seven months until finally starting to pay back what it owes him this past February. Capello’s future at the helm of the Russian squad may now be uncertain, especially given the team’s recent struggles since exiting in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
There was a large contingent within the Russian game that openly opposed Tolstykh’s way of governing. “With his ambitions and endless breaches of the RFU constitution, Mr. Tolstykh has done everything to finally wreck the image of Russian football,” said Anzor Kavazashvili, previously in charge of Russia’s anti-match-fixing division.
Tolstykh did make it a priority to crack down on racism in the sport across the country with the World Cup on its way. He sanctioned numerous clubs for repeated transgressions by fans and players. For example, Torpedo Moscow is in danger of being relegated from the Russian Premier League after receiving four separate punishments for racist incidents, including one for displaying a banner with a Nazi symbol and three for monkey chants, once directed towards Brazil and Zenit St. Petersburg striker Hulk. They ended up with repeated home matches behind closed doors, plus bans against fans traveling to away matches.
With so many financial problems and the World Cup only three years away, the federation is now in scramble mode to ensure that the country is ready to host an event of such monstrous proportions.