World Cup sponsors are turning on FIFA

Germany argentina world cup soccerREUTERS/Kai PfaffenbachArgentina’s Gonzalo Higuain fouls Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during their 2014 World Cup final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014.

Visa has issued the most critical statement yet from a World Cup sponsor in reaction to the arrests of several FIFA officials on Wednesday on racketeering and corruption charges.

In a statement released on its corporate website, Visa — which has a contract with FIFA to sponsor the World Cup until 2022, at an estimated value of $US185 million (£120 million) over a four-year tournament period, according to sponsorship agency BrandRapport – threatened that it would “reassess” its sponsorship if football’s governing body does not make changes.

The full statement reads:

Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound. As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organisation. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.

Visa became a sponsor of FIFA because the World Cup is one of the few truly global sporting events with the power to unite people from around the world through a common love of football. Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement — and it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.

Other sponsors have reacted to the corruption scandal engulfing FIFA in light of yesterday’s news, but Visa’s statement is the most strongly-worded and the only statement to suggest it could pull its support.

Adidas was first to issue a statement: “The Adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. Adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.”

Coca-Cola: “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations. We expect FIFA to continue to address these issues thoroughly. FIFA has stated that it is responding to all requests for information and we are confident it will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities.”

McDonald’s: “McDonald’s takes matters of ethics and corruption very seriously and the news from the U.S. Department of Justice is extremely concerning. We are in contact with FIFA on this matter. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.”

Budweiser: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency,” the brewer told Reuters.

Hyundai: Told Reuters it was “extremely concerned.”

Gazprom: Told Bloomberg Wednesday’s news “doesn’t influence” the Moscow-based gas company’s sponsorship agreement, which is in place until the end of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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