Sergei Fursenko will play an important role in the 2018 bid campaign that concludes with the FIFA decision in December (All photos Getty Images)

(WFI) Sergei Fursenko, the newly elected president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), will not only decide the future of national team coach Guus Hiddink later today but also play a lead role in the country’s campaign to secure the 2018 World Cup.

The former president of Zenit St. Petersburg was elected at an RFU meeting on Wednesday. He replaces Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko who resigned in November under orders from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a separation of roles.

Fursenko, 55, is meeting with Hiddink today to discuss his future as Russia boss. The Dutchman, whose Russia side failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, has already been linked with several coaching jobs at top European clubs including Liverpool and Juventus.

Fursenko will join Russian bid chairman Mutko and his CEO Alexey Sorokin in spearheading the country’s effort to stage the 2018 World Cup.

On taking up the RFU presidency, Fursenko immediately set out his ambitions to win the right to host FIFA’s flagship tournament, even promising Russia would become world champions. “I am convinced we will win the 2018 World Cup,” he was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency. “And on the way, we will achieve many other victories.”

It was reported that Fursenko will exploit his links with Gazprom, where he once headed a division, to tap finance RFU initiatives and replace billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich as the major source of funding.

Fursenko has the support of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Mutko, a FIFA Executive Committee member, told World Football Insider in December that Putin would play a much more visible role in Russia’s bid campaign during 2010.

Medvedev met with Mutko and president of the Russian Olympic Committee Leonid Tyagachev on Wednesday ahead of the election of Fursenko.

Thanking Mutko for his work as RFU president from 2005-2009, he added: “I hope that a new leadership of the Russian Football Union will do their best for our victories in football, and you will supervise them in the capacity of the minister.”
Under the [Physical Culture and Sports Development] Federal Programme, Mutko said that there would be 500 new football fields in Russia by 2015.

Everton signal stadium U-turn
Everton’s 14 year-long search for a new home may be over, after their CEO Robert Elstone confirmed that an architect had been commissioned to evaluate the viability of redeveloping the club’s Goodison Park stadium.

The atmospheric but increasingly outmoded Goodison – which is one of the oldest purpose-built stadiums in the world – has long been written off by the club’s

Everton fans wait for a new stadium could be over if new architectural plans come to fruition

management. Landlocked on three sides by residential streets, and without the location or space to add the conferencing facilities that are often considered necessary to make such grounds viable, it had long been considered preferable to move elsewhere.

Efforts by previous owner Peter Johnson to move to a new site in the mid-1990s came to nothing. When the club was offered a landmark site on the banks of the River Mersey at the start of the last decade, the move fell through after Everton was unable to come up with its share of the cost.

A third proposed move to Kirkby was kicked into touch by the government last November.

The architect, wrote Elstone on his blog is “currently looking at previous plans alongside developing his own ideas. Of course, the well-reported challenges remain; roads, shops, houses, a school, a church, a pub, a garage most of which will need to be addressed in one way or another for us to go forward in a way that makes commercial sense.

“In short, the challenges of working with a stadium footprint housing 50% more fans than [Bolton’s] Reebok [Stadium], in pretty much the same space remain.”

Elstone also confirmed that the club was working with the city council  and private developers to investigate sites for a new stadium.

Arsenal seeks revenue boost in China
Arsenal have appointed Helios Partners to provide marketing expertise and consulting services in a bid to expand their presence and fan base in China.

The deal will see Helios develop a commercial marketing strategy and a range of other activities that are part of the sports marketing firm’s ‘China Playbook’ plan to ensure long-term success for sports properties within the China market.

Helios will oversee the development of youth-oriented grassroots initiatives throughout China, including a programme that will serve as an extension of the Arsenal Soccer School.

“We are very pleased to have one of the world’s leading agencies working on our behalf in China,” said Tom Fox, Arsenal’s chief commercial officer.

“Helios provides the on-the-ground capabilities and depth of experience within China that we need to build the support and passion for Arsenal Football Club.”

Helios is already working on a variety of football-related projects, including management of Russia’s bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

“Arsenal understands the importance of a long-term commitment to China, and this is exactly how it is done,” said Chris Renner, president of Helios China, whose previous activity includes the development of the Chinese Football Association’s Team China programme.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this effort to bring one of the world’s most recognisable sports brands to the world’s most populous country.”

Arsenal Holdings plc recently announced an after-tax profit of £35.2 million on turnover of £313.3 million.

Written by Mark Bisson ([email protected])
and James Corbett (
[email protected])
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