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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
The Russian reaction
By Dmitry Shishkin

Dinamo Stadium in Moscow
Abramovich has shown no interest in investing in Russian football
Russia woke up on Wednesday to the news that one of its richest businessmen now owns the Premiership's Chelsea football club.

The immediate reaction is mixed, to say the least.

While Russian football officials appear to be calm, fans are already joking about the fate of the London side.

Valery Draganov, the vice-president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said there was nothing unusual in the deal between Roman Abramovich, governor of Russia's vast but barren Chukotka region, and Chelsea.

"One should regard it as a successful investment. Chelsea are not just a football club, they are the stadium, two hotels, an entertainment centre.

I can't say I'm happy with the news - I wish Russian money was invested in Russian sport
Vyacheslav Koloskov
RFU president

"Any problems with the club's budget can easily be solved by the transfer policy", he said.

Draganov believes Abramovich will definitely be interested in buying Russian clubs in the future, but only "when their finances are clearer and the Russian Premier league is more competitive".

"Chelsea are just the first step for him in this new field of business. I'm sure he will eventually buy a Russian club," Draganov added.

But the RFU's president, Vyacheslav Koloskov, said: "I can't say I'm happy with the news. I wish Russian money was invested in Russian sport.

"However, this is the world-wide practice when businessmen buy football clubs.

"I treat it as an inevitability, as his desire to get into the strongest football league in the world," he said.

The former Russian Olympic champion Sergei Shelpakov, who now advises the governor of Siberia's Omsk region on sport issues, hopes Abramovich will turn his attention to the city's hockey team Avangard.

Chelsea fans should be praying for their club not to be renamed Chelsea Chukotka
Russian football fan

The Sibneft oil company, which is largely owned by Abramovich, is based in Omsk.

Shelpakov said he has heard Abramovich saying that the time has come to invest in team sports.

"Russian football clubs are losing money, while the English football club is something Abramovich might have been talking about," he said.

Meanwhile Russian-speaking football fans are discussing the issue in a lighter tones.

"It is now up to Boris Berezovsky (another Russian tycoon) to buy Manchester United, and Ahmed Zakayev (a Chechen wanted by the Russian government for alleged crimes in Chechnya) to get his hands on Glasgow Rangers.

"(Former Russian President Boris) Yeltsin will obviously be interested in Wimbledon," says Simple Nick from Latvia.

"Chelsea fans should be praying for their club not to be renamed Chelsea Chukotka," writes another.




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