Sports minister Vitaly Mutko led the Russian 2018 World Cup bid (WFI)

(WFI) Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko has joined the country’s Premier League chief Sergei Pryadkin and politician Igor Lebedev in the race to become new president of the Russian FA.

He was nominated by the Krasnodar region football federation but has yet to officially confirm his candidacy, according to Ria Novosti.

Mutko, 53, has been critical of the number of foreign imports flooding the Russian game claiming they are reducing the opportunities for Russian talent to shine through.

Mutko, who led the successful Russian 2018 World Cup bid and is currently heavily involved in the organisation of the first Russian Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was Russan Football Union boss from 2005 to 2009.

Whoever is elected at the RFU’s extraordinary general assembly on Sept. 3 has a big task ahead.

They will be expected to revamp the national team set-up to give Russia a chance of doing well at the 2018 World Cup on home soil. Former RFU chief Sergei Fursenko quit soon after Euro 2012 following his side’s failure to make the quarter-finals.

Russian football’s racism and hooliganism problem, which surfaced during Euro 2012, is another significant challenge that needs tackling.

Earlier this week, the Russian Premier League nominated Pryadkin; he is said to have the backing of all 16 top-flight clubs.

Igor Lebedev, a vice speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, was nominated last week by the Smolensk Region Football Federation.

Revamped Russian Premier League Kicks Off

The Russian Premier League kicks off its first-ever autumn to spring season today with Lokomotiv Moscow travelling to newly promoted Mordovia Saransk.

It follows the experimentation with a transitional 18-month championship won by Zenit St. Petersburg. They finished 13 points clear of their closest rivals, Spartak Moscow.

After 20 years of playing a March to November season to avoid the harsh winter, the 2012-13 campaign matches up closely to the European calendar which begins next month.

Luciano Spalletti’s side face tough competition from the four Moscow clubs – Spartak, CSKA, Dinamo and Lokomotiv – who are bidding to bring the title back to the Russian capital for the first time since 2006.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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