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Volume 6 No. 212
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Russian Bill Would Prohibit State-Run Businesses From Owning Sports Teams

Under a new legislation submitted to Russian Parliament, state-run corporations considered to be “natural monopolies,” such as the natural gas giant Gazprom and the railway operator Russian Railways, would be prohibited from financing sports clubs. If enacted, the legislation would hit the likes of Zenit, CSKA and Lokomotiv football clubs and SKA and Avangard hockey squads. The legislation was proposed by a group of Federation Council members including former NHL star and ex-head of Russia’s sports agency Vyacheslav Fetisov. “Consumers of services by the natural monopolies are right to note that they don’t have to pay for purchases by a football club of a highly priced player from another part of Russia,” reads the explanatory note, also stating that costs of running sports clubs by major state-owned corporations could be passed upon the consumers of their services and goods.

STUDYING THE IMPACT: A spokesperson for Russian Railways, which owns and funds the Russian Premier League club Lokomotiv Moscow, told SBD Global, “Russian Railways is studying the proposal and is ready to take part in its discussion and to provide the Federal Council with full information regarding the company’s role in supporting amateur and professional sports.” Sports clubs that could be affected by the legislation, if it were passed, declined to comment.

A QUESTION OF 'SURVIVAL': Meanwhile, Russian sports officials criticized the initiative. Russian Football Union honorary president Vyacheslav Kolosko told ITAR-TASS, “I don’t think this initiative is right. Support by state corporations and natural monopolies is the only opportunity for professional sport’s survival at the moment.” He added that revenues from ticket sales and TV rights are currently too low to cover the costs of top-level sports clubs. ITAR-TASS also quoted an anonymous highly-placed official at Gazprom as saying that the proposal will not be passed. A date for consideration of the legislation by the Russian State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, has not yet been set.
(Vladimir Kozlov is a writer in Moscow.)