English football has “reached a turning point” after having “tolerated the investment of Russian kleptocrats for far too long”, the Culture Secretary has said.
Nadine Dorries also appeared to suggest Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich should be sanctioned by the UK after telling Labor MP Chris Bryant that she hopes the Foreign Office will “come forward with the sanctions he’s looking for”.
Mr Bryant is a long-term critic of Mr Abramovich and on Thursday told the Commons it was a “mystery” to him why the Russian/Israeli billionaire has not yet been sanctioned by the UK Government.
Mr Abramovich has announced his intention to sell Chelsea after 19 years, amid fears he could be targeted by the UK Government given his proximity to the Russian state.
He has stated all net proceeds from any potential deal would go into a new charity foundation for Ukraine and is also understood to have been attempting to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Bryant said: “Some of us are anxious about why we’re not going further on the sanctioning of individuals.
“It’s a mystery to me why Roman Abramovich has not yet been sanctioned. The Government itself knows that he’s been engaged in illicit activity and he’s a person of concern to the Government, which is why they’ve not been encouraging him to come to the UK.
“I don’t know why Alisher Usmanov has not yet been sanctioned. He’s been sanctioned by the EU but not by us.”
Mr Bryant added: “I wonder whether she would condemn John Terry today. I don’t know whether she’s seen this but he has posted today a photo of himself with Roman Abramovich, who is one of Putin’s cronies.
“What will the people of Ukraine think of the former England football captain?”
Ms Dorries praised Mr Bryant for his work on raising matters connected to Russia over the years and noted she has “heard everything” he has said in the last week.
She said: “I can’t name individuals in the way he can but I know the Foreign Office are working on sanctioning, he knows the sanctions are the responsibility of the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) and he knows that the Foreign Office are working on sanctions.”
Ms Dorries added: “In football, I agree with him and we have tolerated the investment of Russian kleptocrats for far too long.
“Yesterday’s announcement showed that I think we have reached a turning point. We need to make sure that football clubs remain viable, that is an important point.
“We’re bringing forward our response to the fan-led review as soon as I possibly can, and an independent regulator and a fit-and-proper-person test for owners; seems to me – this is the fan-led review by my colleague Tracey Crouch – and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time and I see this as a turning point and there can be no arguments against bringing this forward.
“I agree with much of what (Mr Bryant) says, he knows I’m limited in what I am able to do in my department, I cannot mention names and I hope we will see the Foreign Office come forward with the sanctions he’s looking for.”
Everton have suspended commercial ties with Uzbekistan-born Russian billionaire Mr Usmanov’s companies.
On Wednesday, an Everton statement read: “The club can confirm that it has suspended with immediate effect all commercial sponsorship arrangements with the Russian companies USM, Megafon and Yota.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.