SBD/June 9, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

BP, AB Latest Sponsors Urging FIFA To Deal With Corruption Allegations Over '22 World Cup

Oil company BP and Anheuser-Busch InBev today "joined the ranks of World Cup sponsors pressing" FIFA to "tackle corruption allegations over the awarding" of the '22 tournament to Qatar, according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. The calls follow "similar statements" yesterday by adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and Sony. A-B InBev, whose Budweiser beer is a World Cup sponsor through '22, said in a statement, "We are concerned about the situation and are monitoring developments; we expect FIFA to take all necessary steps to address the issue." BP, whose Castrol oil brand is sponsoring the '14 event, said that it "expected FIFA to deal with the issue in a 'right and proper manner.'" Sony, adidas, Visa, Coca-Cola and Hyundai, "all members of the top tier of FIFA sponsors," spoke out yesterday "in favour of a thorough investigation of bribery claims." Emirates airline is the only one "of the top tier sponsors" that remained "silent." All of the sponsors had "kept resolutely quiet" until yesterday (REUTERS, 6/9). adidas yesterday said, "The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners." Sony said it expects FIFA "to adhere to its principles." FIFA Marketing Dir Thierry Weil in an e-mail wrote that the organization is "in contact with commercial partners including Adidas, Sony and Visa." He wrote, "Our sponsors have not requested anything that is not covered by the ongoing investigation." BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja notes FIFA's top partners, "with the exception of Sony, have committed to backing" the '18 and '22 World Cups, with adidas "signing on through" '30 (BLOOMBERG.com, 6/9).

TIME TO ABOLISH FIFA? In N.Y., Dave Zirin in a special wrote FIFA is "plagued by levels of corruption, graft and excess that would shame Silvio Berlusconi." Under the "iron-fisted leadership of Sepp Blatter, FIFA has been steeped in rotating scandals for so long, it’s difficult even to imagine its not being immersed in one public relations crisis or another." FIFA for decades has "entered the nations of the world with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball causing catastrophic damage, and every four years it gets away with it." The world is finally "seeing FIFA for what it is: a stateless conglomerate that takes bribes while acting as a battering ram for world leaders who want to use the majesty of the World Cup to push through their development agendas at great human cost." It is "past time to abolish FIFA" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/8). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Gray wrote FIFA is "facing perhaps the biggest test of its 110-year history," as the governing body is "under siege as it grapples with mounting allegations of bribery and corruption that span the globe and involve millions of dollars." The "mess at FIFA," which expects to rake in US$4.5B in revenue from this year’s World Cup alone, "comes as corporations and governments around the world shift their attitudes toward bribery, a practice that until recently was quietly tolerated as the cost of doing business in certain parts of the world" (GLOVE & MAIL, 6/7). A N.Y. TIMES editorial stated, "No games are watched as intently as World Cup games. FIFA owes it to the world to strengthen its watch so soccer fans can cheer without any doubts" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/8). Smith College sports economics professor Andrew Zimbalist in a special to the BOSTON GLOBE wrote under the header, "IOC And FIFA: Monopoly Power Makes Pricey Games" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/8).
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