Novatek gets behind Russia’s World Cup return

The Russian Football Union (RFU) has agreed a lucrative one-year sponsorship deal with the country’s leading independent natural gas producer, Novatek.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) has agreed a lucrative one-year sponsorship deal with the country’s leading independent natural gas producer, Novatek.

The company is Russia’s second-largest gas producer after state-controlled Gazprom, which declined to exercise its option to extend its sponsorship deal with the RFU in December 2012. The R-Sport news agency said the RFU’s new deal with Novatek is worth around US$8 million, adding the deal will greatly enhance the financial fortunes of the governing body. Although the RFU is believed to have significantly reduced the $25 million worth of debt that had accumulated under previous leader Sergei Fursenko, incumbent chief Nikolai Tolstykh had been seeking a financial backer to avoid regressing back to that level.

The RFU said in a statement: “Undoubtedly, the arrival into Russian football of one of the largest gas extraction companies shows the possibilities of mutually beneficial cooperation and will help the Russian Football Union reach its goals.”

Novatek’s backing will aid preparations for Russia’s qualification for its first FIFA World Cup in 12 years. Russia finished top of European qualifying Group F, ahead of Portugal, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg. The country will host the World Cup in 2018.