Vitaly Mutko, who earlier this week stepped down as head of Russia’s football union, has been replaced as head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, state news agency TASS reported Wednesday.
Mutko, A deputy prime minister responsible for sports issues has been implicated in international allegations that Russia engaged in a state-sponsored doping programme to boost its performance, including the 2014 Winter Olympics, which it hosted in Sochi.
The former RFU who was Russia’s sports minister during the 2014 Games, has adamantly denied the allegations. His temporary resignation as chairman of the Russian Football Union on Monday was widely seen a move to deflect controversy as Russia prepares to host the FIFA World Cup next year.
Mutko is being replaced on the World Cup organizing committee by high-ranking sports official Alexei Sorokin.
Mukto said in comments carried by TASS, that he would still engage in coordination work as part of his duties in the prime minister’s cabinet.
“Sorokin will become the Local Organizing Committee’s chairman. He will cooperate with the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA), while I will coordinate the work on behalf of the government,” Mutko said, according to TASS.
Mutko might have steeped down as head of Russia Football Union, but he still remain the Russia Sports minister, while Alexei Sorokin leads the World cup organizing committee
A FIFA spokesman said the ruling body had “taken note” of Mutko’s decision and thanked him “for his invaluable contribution to the preparations for the competition so far.
“FIFA will continue to work in close collaboration with the LOC under its new leadership as well as with the Russian government, the Russian Football Union and the host cities with the aim to deliver an exceptional event,” the spokesman said.
Russia will host the World Cup in 11 cities from June 14 to July 15. The country has been building or modernizing facilities in preparation with a budget of about 11 billion dollars.
Dozens of Russian athletes have been banned from the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on charges that they have used performance-enhancing drugs.
Earlier this month the International Olympic Committee forbade Russia from sending a national team to the Games in February. Cleared Russian athletes would still be allowed to compete as individuals.