Kia Won't Heed Copa America's Plea for Prize Money From Sponsors

  • Carmaker Will Only Deal With Soccer Event Owner Datisa
  • Datisa's Accounts Frozen Amid U.S. Corruption Investigation

South American soccer leaders can’t count on sponsor Kia Motors Corp. to help meet a prize money shortfall at the Copa America after the sponsor said it would only deal with the event’s owner, whose bank accounts are frozen.

Datisa, which agreed to pay $80 million for the tournament featuring 12 teams including Argentina and Brazil, is at the center of last month’s U.S. Department of Justice indictment that alleges two decades of corruption in global soccer.

Carlos Chavez, the treasurer of South American soccer body Conmebol, said yesterday the group is reaching out to sponsors that include Coca Cola Co., DHL Worldwide Express and Claro SA as well as Kia, to receive payments after revealing Datisa had only paid $35 million of its contract. Conmebol’s $10 million cash reserve is only enough to pay half the tournament’s prize money.

Kia said it will only deal with WeMatch, the Datisa subsidiary that bought the rights to four Copa America tournaments through 2023.

“We have been paying our sponsorship fee directly to WeMatch and plan to continue to do so for the last remaining payment,” the Korean carmaker said in an e-mailed statement.

Current and former executives at South American soccer body Conmebol have been charged with arranging $110 million in bribes for the Copa America tournaments, about a third of the total agreement.

Coke, DHL and Claro all declined to comment.

Even though its the world’s oldest regional soccer competition the Copa America generates a fraction of the European Championship. In 2012 that event was worth 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion). The Copa America quarterfinal stage begins tonight with host Chile and Uruguay in Santiago.

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