x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Fifa World Cup allegations hit Qatar index as sponsors express concern

Emirates is the only of Fifa's major sponsors not to have called for an investigation into allegations of corruption relating to Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid.

Fifa’s Asian commercial partners, including Sony, said they expected a ‘thorough investigation’ into corruption allegations over Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid. Yoshikazu Tsuno /AFP
Fifa’s Asian commercial partners, including Sony, said they expected a ‘thorough investigation’ into corruption allegations over Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid. Yoshikazu Tsuno /AFP

The Qatar Exchange index fell 1.2 per cent yesterday after five major sponsors of the Fifa World Cup expressed concern over a new set of allegations released by The Sunday Times.

Since the British newspaper first raised its allegations on June 1, the Qatar Exchange index has fallen on five of seven days and is down by a total of 4.3 per cent.

Adidas, Coca-Cola, Sony, Visa and Hyundai, five of Fifa’s six largest sponsors, released statements after The Sunday Times alleged that the former Qatari football official, Mohamed bin Hammam, procured Thailand’s support for Qatar’s bid by offering to facilitate a multimillion dollar gas deal between the countries.

These five firms, plus Emirates Airline, are Fifa’s “partners” – large sponsors that jointly contributed US$177 million in revenue to the international football association in 2012, according to its most recent financial report.

The Sunday Times previously reported that Mr bin Hammam had facilitated payments of up to $5m to African officials to win their support for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.

Each of the five companies demanded that The Sunday Times’s allegations be investigated.

Emirates is the only of Fifa’s largest sponsors to have declined to comment on The Sunday Times’s allegations.

“The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners,” said adidas, which has sponsored the World Cup since 1970 and recently signed an agreement extending its advertising partnership up to 2030.

Sony said: “As a Fifa partner, we expect these allegations to be investigated appropriately.”

Visa also called for an investigation. “We expect Fifa will take ... appropriate action”, the company said.

Coca-Cola said: “Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup is a concern to us, but we are confident Fifa is taking these allegations very seriously and is investigating them thoroughly through the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee.”

A spokesman for Hyundai told the TV programme Football Italia: “We are confident that Fifa is taking these allegations seriously and that the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee will conduct a thorough investigation.”

Fifa had previously opened an investigation into the allegations of corruption, headed by Michael Garcia, an American lawyer.

Fifa responded to the comments from its sponsors with a statement from its marketing director, Thierry Weil.

“We are in constant contact with our commercial affiliates, including Adidas, Sony and Visa, and they have 100 per cent confidence in the investigation currently being conducted by Fifa’s independent ethics committee,” Mr Weil said.

“Our sponsors have not requested anything that is not covered by the ongoing investigation.”

Over the weekend, the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, tweeted: “Never ignoring media reports on ethics allegations in football. But let the ethics committee work.”

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

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