Roman raises cash prize
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Despite the credit crunch, Roman Abramovich is increasing the prize-money for the Russia Channel One Winter Tournament, held each year in Israel, from $2 million to $10 million. The number of teams participating is also being increased from six to eight.
This is the fourth year that the tournament, which takes place in Tel Aviv in the last week of January, is being scheduled.
This year, eight teams will compete - four from Russia and four from Ukraine, including Uefa Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg, and three teams from Moscow (Spartak, CSKA and Lokomotiv) and the Ukrainian quartette of Dynamo Kiev, Shakhatar Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk and Metalist Khakhov.
The winners will get $5 million and the runners-up $2.5 million. No Israeli teams have been invited after their participation over the past two years has failed to attract local interest.
It remains unclear whether the off-the-pitch events will be as lavish for the upcoming tournament, which attracts wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union, including likes of Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov and Abramovich himself, who spends the entire week in Tel Aviv.
Last year, Abramovich reportedly forked out $5 million in organisational costs, above and beyond the prize money, including $800,000 for a private performance by American Jewish singer Pink at Tel Aviv's Hangar club.
Abramovich, who earlier this year had a $30 million bid rejected for Bet Chelouche in Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek quarter is expected to renew negotiations when he is back in Israel.