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Government vows to help debt-ridden giants

The tunnel to Red Star’s football stadium in Belgrade.

The tunnel to Red Star’s football stadium in Belgrade.

The Serbian government will help re-finance debt-ridden giants Red Star and Partizan Belgrade and have appointed managers to temporarily run Red Star, the Balkan country’s deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said.

Vucic had called a press conference in the early hours of yester-day to announce the refinancing after Red Star chairman Vladan Lukic resigned on Tuesday saying he was exhausted from struggling with managing the club’s debt of about €60m and from a poor run of results.

Lukic’s resignation left a massive void at the club ahead of Saturday’s crunch derby with champions and league leaders Partizan, and the government concerned about the health of two of the biggest clubs in the country.

“I spoke to the club’s legends and leadership on the behalf of Serbia’s government and we have agreed to (re-finance) Red Star’s and Partizan’s debts because the state cannot allow these two clubs to go under,” Vucic said.

“The situation is so dire it’s beyond comment.

“As far as Red Star are concerned, we will speak with Gazprom, their general sponsor, to elaborate how soon they can pour some money into the club.”

Vucic said a working group headed by former player Dragan Dzajic would take charge of Red Star to try to consolidate the club’s financial position until a new president and board were elected in either December or January.

Both Red Star and Partizan were heavily funded by the authorities in communist Yugoslavia before the country’s bloody break-up but have been left largely to their own devices in the past 20 years.

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