FIFA Seeks Clarification From Emirates Over Sponsorship Comments

Soccer’s governing body said it’s “surprised” by the comments attributed to an executive at sponsor Emirates that the airline is mulling whether to end a deal with FIFA after the 2014 World Cup.

FIFA has been roiled by a slew of corruption scandals in the past year that have spooked sponsors, who pay millions to be associated with the World Cup, sport’s most-watched event.

“We are seriously thinking about not renewing our partnership with FIFA beyond 2014,” Boutros Boutros, Emirates’s divisional senior vice president of corporate communications, said in an interview with Australia’s B&T Media yesterday.

FIFA said it’s trying to clarify the comments with Emirates, though it generally has a “very positive relationship with all of our commercial affiliates and media rights licensees.” The organization cited in a statement today “the confidence” shown by other sponsors which have extended contracts until the 2022 World Cup. FIFA generated about $4 billion from television and marketing contracts for the last World Cup, held in South Africa in 2010. It’s sold out its global sponsorship packages for the next tournament in Brazil in 2014.

Eight-Year Contract

Emirates signed an eight-year contract with FIFA in 2006 worth $195 million. Along with other lead partners, including Adidas AG, Sony Corp., Visa Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., it expressed concern about claims of impropriety within the organization in May when FIFA’s presidential election was tainted by allegations of vote-buying. That followed claims of wrongdoing against members of the executive who voted for where the World Cup would be staged in 2018 and 2022.

“As a sponsor you expect they will come and write to you in the middle of the issue or at the end of it,” Boutros was quoted as saying by B&T Media. “To them they act as if it’s nothing for sponsors. For us, in our history of sponsorship, it is the only event that when it happened our clients started writing to us saying ‘why do you support this organization?’”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced a raft of anti- corruption measures last month, promising to cleanse the organization by 2013. He’s been president since 1998. Blatter was re-elected after his sole challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam quit after he was accused of bribing voters in the Caribbean. Bin Hammam is now appealing the life ban from the sport he received.

“We don’t get into politics but we believe the situation with FIFA went beyond an internal problem and became much bigger,” Boutros said.

The airline today said in a statement that it has “not yet commenced discussions with FIFA on the extension of our partnership agreement beyond 2014. Discussions will begin in due course.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in the London newsroom at 3677 or tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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