Russian energy company Lukoil has announced it has acquired total control of national football giant Spartak Moscow, also confirming that long-serving Spartak president Leonid Fedun would be leaving his position.
Spartak is Russia’s most successful ever team in terms of domestic titles, racking up 22 Soviet/Russian top-tier championships down the years.
Lukoil was already a prominent Spartak sponsor but announced on Monday that it had now assumed total control over the club and its 45,000-capacity Otkritie Bank Arena stadium in the Russian capital.
“In the near future Lukoil intends to implement a number of strategic initiatives aiming to enhance the club management system and streamline the decision-making process with involvement of sports industry professionals with a proven track record,” read a press release from Lukoil, which is Russia’s second largest oil giant behind Rosneft.
“The company believes that these initiatives, coupled with steady sponsorship support by Lukoil and other partners of the club will reinforce Spartak’s competitive position and lead to new victories.”
The statement confirmed the departure of Fedun, 66, as president and chairman of the board, saying he would “no longer be involved in management of the club.”
Fedun was a co-founder of Lukoil and continued to serve as vice-president at the company until June, when he stepped down after reaching retirement age and for what were described as family reasons.
Fedun had been at the helm at Spartak since acquiring a controlling stake in the club in 2004. He issued a farewell message to fans and insisted he would remain an avid supporter.
“I want to express my sincere gratitude to my friends and colleagues from Lukoil for agreeing to support such a significant social project as Spartak in this most difficult situation,” read a statement shared on the club’s website.
“I leave them a competitive young team with an ambitious coach, as well as a highly professional team of managers. And, of course, a magnificent stadium. I believe that together they are able to achieve new victories!
“PS. Yes, and this is not an obituary. You can always count on my help and support. I remain a devoted fan of my favorite team, Spartak. Forward, red-whites! To new titles!”
Fedun has long divided opinion among the Spartak fanbase – not least after his wife Zarema Salikhova briefly joined the club’s board of directors last year.
Salikhova, 35, is among the most colorful and controversial figures in Russian football, regularly weighing in on transfer policy and scandals on refereeing decisions through her social media accounts.
Spartak enjoyed near-total dominance over Russian football in the 1990s, although the team dropped off following the turn of the millennium and was forced to watch on as rivals CSKA Moscow and the Gazprom-backed Zenit St. Petersburg enjoyed domestic and European success.
Spartak ended a 16-year championship drought in 2017 when they won the Russian Premier League under Italian manager Massimo Carrera, although Lokomotiv Moscow claimed the title the following season before a run of four successive crowns for Zenit.
Last season Spartak finished a lowly tenth in the Russian Premier League table but did enjoy silverware with a dramatic Russian Cup win over cross-city rivals Dynamo.
Managed this season by 33-year-old Spaniard Guille Abascal, Spartak find themselves second in the table on 13 points after six games played, one point behind leaders Zenit.
The Moscow club suffered their first league defeat of the current league campaign against Dynamo on Saturday.
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