Russia’s two biggest oil firms will step in to save Premier League side Tom Tomsk after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin urged them to help the team, which is at risk of financial collapse, Tomsk regional governor Viktor Kress said Thursday.
Gazprom Neft and Rosneft will fund the club through their Tomskneft joint venture, Kress told the regional NIA Tomsk news agency. Putin has vowed that the state-owned firms would bail out Tom Tomsk if the club’s ownership structure was made completely transparent.
Kress was quoted as saying: “The decision has been taken to instruct two companies, Gazprom Neft and Rosneft, through Tomskneft, to protect the Tom football club. ... I’ve already given the instruction, we’ve started work,” he was quoted as saying.
Kress said that the club’s management would be completely changed, and that work was under way to transfer its Trud stadium taken to the city government.
The regional government had propped up the club, which is banned from signing players until it clears wage arrears with staff, with almost $80 million of public money since 2005, Kress said.
The club’s chief executive, Yuri Stepanov, told RIA Novosti Thursday that the club’s management would meet any conditions that the oil firms required.
The beleaguered club has spiraling debts and no source of funds since the regional authorities, their only sponsor, withdrew their funding, threatening the team’s existence. Tomsk currently sit bottom of the Premier League, seven points adrift of safety.
Putin, widely expected to return to the Kremlin for a third term as president in March elections, has denied tacitly campaigning with the promises of funds for the club.
"That's not the point. It's my personal wish that the club exists, that people go enjoy themselves by going to the stadium rather than getting drunk on vodka," he said Wednesday.