English Premier League club Everton have suspended all the commercial and sponsorship activities with Russian companies USM, Megafon, and Yota with immediate effect in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The club also decided to remove signage of all three companies and messaging relating to USM, owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, around the club and the training ground. Megafon sponsors the club’s women’s shirts, which will now be rebranded.
A statement from Everton read, “Everyone at Everton remains shocked and saddened by the appalling events unfolding in Ukraine.”
“This tragic situation must end as soon as possible, and any further loss of life must be avoided. The players, coaching staff and everyone working at Everton is providing full support to our player Vitalii Mykolenko and his family and will continue to do so,” said the statement.
Everton manager Frank Lampard addressed Usmanov’s involvement in the club by revealing the Russian billionaire was not part of the process to hire him as head coach at the end of January.
Lampard defended the club’s actions ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last week – and highlighted Everton’s tribute to Ukraine before Saturday’s Premier League tie with Manchester City as a good example of the club’s work.
“Those reports are inaccurate,” Lampard was quoted as saying by Skysports, when asked if Usmanov played a role in his hiring. “My interview was with the board, with Mr (Farhad) Moshiri, the chairman (Bill Kenwright), Denise (Barrett-Baxendale) the CEO and others – but not Mr Usmanov. So that’s not accurate in that sense.”
The news comes after Labour MP Chris Bryant told the Toffees to end their involvement with Usmanov, who is not officially involved with Everton, but whose USM firm sponsored the club’s training ground.
The 68-year-old on Monday had his assets frozen by the European Union in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Usmanov released a statement on Tuesday via the International Fencing Federation where he was president since 2008. The statement read: “On 28 February 2022, I became the target of restrictive measures imposed by the European Union.
“I believe that such a decision is unfair, and the reasons employed to justify the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations damaging my honour, dignity, and business reputation.”