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Gazprom And Financial Fair Play: A Russian Affair

At the end of the day, all it proves is that football is still governed by money.

You may have noticed the name Gazprom making more appearances during European football matches. They currently sponsor the UEFA Champions League and the Super Cup, Chelsea and the German team Schalke 04. On top of that they own Zenit St Petersburg, the team which recently spent over £60 million on the purchases of Axel Witsel and Hulk. On the face of it there€™s absolutely nothing strange; Bwin have sponsored many major European teams and competitions at one time. Last year the first blow was dealt to Michel Platini€™s Financial Fair Play proposals. Under the aforementioned rules, clubs have to disclose their annual finances to UEFA and if the guidelines - which eventually hope to make every club self-sustainable €“ haven€™t been met, they can be stricken from any European competition. Part of the scheme stops rich owners pouring money into their clubs; although none of the new rules affect sponsorship from sources that don€™t have significant links to the clubs. Last season Manchester City, owned by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, announced a deal worth an estimated £400 million over ten years with Etihad Airways, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government. The deal is the most lucrative in any sport and the sum should help the club deal with their heavy financial losses, which have surpassed the £100 million mark in recent years. That deal managed to avoid FFP regulations, so it came as no surprise when another major European team which regularly makes operating losses formed a new partnership. Gazprom, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, shares links with the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich. The oligarch earned his billions as an owner of Sibneft and when the company was sold in 2005 it was the biggest corporate takeover in Russian history. 73% of the shares were sold for an estimated $13 billion; a majority of them Abramovich€™s. The buyer: Gazprom. Neither Gazprom nor Chelsea have revealed the details involved, which has led many to believe this is their way around FFP. With the estimated £48 million prize they were awarded for winning the Champions League and the plethora of new deals which have subsequently been sealed the Stamford Bridge side should avoid any queries over how their financial security. Whether other major European teams will strike similar deals has yet to be seen; although it wouldn€™t be surprising if Qatari owned PSG soon formed a new business partnership. On paper it would appear that the sale of Abramovich€™s assets to Gazprom should count as a substantial link. Luckily for Chelsea, Gazprom also announced a sponsorship deal with UEFA, which should halt any investigations into the deal. Financial Fair Play once showed potential to be a game-changer. Perhaps clubs would be self-sufficient, salary-caps would be introduced and ticket prices may be lowered to coincide with the massive new TV deals. At the end of the day, all it proves is that football is still governed by money.
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Contributor

Write about football and games. Support Liverpool. Consistently disappointed.