The Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ have named a panel of judges as part of the process to select the official mascot for tournament.

The judges have been tasked with shortlisting three designs from the 120 submissions received from Russian design students, which will then be put to a countrywide vote in Autumn 2016. Once all stages have been completed, the winning character will have invoked the most public participation of any brand asset in FIFA World Cup™ history.

Sitting on the panel are actor and director Fedor Bondarchuk, actress Victoria Tolstoganova, television presenter Oxana Fedorova, music producer Victor Drobysh, singer Polina Gagarina, members of the theatrical group “Kvartet I” Leonid Barats and Rostislav Khait, designer Igor Gurovich, and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the company “State Sports Lottery” Armen Sarkisyan. The Russian national football team will be represented by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who is also the first Ambassador for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The panel will review the creative proposals submitted by design students in Russia as part of the second stage of the mascot development campaign. Once they have seen all the entries, the jury will whittle these down to three designs before the whole country casts the deciding vote on the World Cup's official mascot in 2016.

“We think that it's very important for selection of this engaging ambassador of the FIFA World Cup to involve professionals from the fields of arts, culture, entertainment and sport. That's why we have invited expert representatives from these areas onto the panel,” said LOC Chairman Vitaly Mutko. “They have been set the objective of not only selecting the strongest visual concepts for the future mascot, but also considering and understanding the students’ inspiration for their concept in the context of the role the Official Mascot needs to fulfil to make it a successful part of the tournament's history and legacy.”

Every member of the panel has their own specific role. Children's TV presenter Oxana Fedorova, for example, will be able to view the mascot through the eyes of young fans, while the actors and singers can perceive the mascot's creative potential. The sportsmen can see how it would appeal to the football community and designer Igor Gurovich will assess the future World Cup ambassador from a professional point of view.

Fedor Bondarchuk: “Choosing the mascot is in some ways similar to deciding on the plot for a film. The outcome could be a comedy, a drama or even a thriller,” claimed Bondarchuk. “We have the 'cast' to identify (qualifying teams), the 'directors' (coaches) who are immersed by the weekly dramas and the audience (fans) dreaming to get a ticket to the biggest blockbuster of 2018. I hope the young designers will give the panel a mascot with character that can have a long and fascinating life”.

Polina Gagarina does not find herself on this panel by chance, already being involved in the tournament by singing “Million Voices" alongside a choir of 209 children at the Russia 2018 Preliminary Draw. "Football unites the world and the mascot should be a character that everybody recognises. I hope we'll find a memorable mascot," declared the performer.

Igor Gurovich underlined the difficulty of the task ahead: “Coming to an agreement that satisfies everybody will be very tough because all these creative individuals will view the process and the end result differently.”

The selection campaign for the World Cup mascot was launched by FIFA and the LOC in April 2015 on the website http://talisman.fifa.com where an initial survey for the mascot's character was conducted. More than 50,000 young fans took part and identified ten figures. The second stage was then opened to Russian students enrolled in design schools across the country, who were tasked with bringing one of the ten characters to life. After the close of this stage on 30 November, over 120 applications were received through the online submission platform.

Russian footballers also contributed to the project, starring in a clip supporting the mascot campaign.

The final stage of the campaign takes place in Autumn 2016, when the three designs chosen by the judges' panel will be presented for a countrywide vote. The ceremony to unveil the official Russia 2018 mascot is due to take place at the end of 2016.