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Russian World Cup venue at centre of club v operator dispute

Russian Premier League football club FC Rostov has become embroiled in a dispute with the operator of its stadium over the terms of a lease agreement, claiming that it does not know where it will play its next match.

FC Rostov plays at the 43,000-seat Rostov Arena, one of the new stadia developed for Russia’s staging of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, it has become involved in a war of words with state-owned company Sport-In, which operates seven stadiums built for the World Cup, including Rostov Arena.

Sport-In yesterday (Tuesday) announced that FC Rostov had paid off a debt of around 12 million rubles (£149,000/€164,000/$181,000) for hosting matches at the Rostov Arena in the 2018-19 season and would be allowed to continue playing at the venue this season.

Earlier, a draft agreement for the termination of the contract between Rostov and Sport-In came to light. Despite Sport-In’s subsequent statement on the matter, FC Rostov spokesman Denis Shtanko told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the club had been locked out of the stadium, disputing what the operator had claimed.

Shtanko said: “At the time the club received a proposal to terminate the lease agreement for the Rostov Arena stadium, the club did not have any debts to Sport-In. The information published on the site of the stadium’s operator is not true.”

Shtanko noted that “to date, the club has no understanding of where the match against Akhmat (Grozny) will be held on September 15.”

Sport-In has hit back at Shtanko’s comments, claiming he does not have a clear understanding of the situation. Sport-In spokesman Alexander Bogomolov said: “It’s extremely strange to hear about blocking access, because under the agreement access is allowed the day before the match and on the day of the match.

“Now there’s a break for the national team’s matches. And the fact that the (Rostov) press service is not aware of the debts and does not know much about the details of our contractual relationship, this is not surprising. This is, in principle, not in its competence.”

The dispute has forced the Russian Football Union (RFU) to become involved. “We are aware of this situation, we hope that the Russian Premier League will find a solution,” RFU president Alexander Dyukov said, according to state news agency Tass. “If it does not work out, this situation is under control. If nothing happens in the near future, then the RFU will have to intervene in this situation.”

Image: FIFA