FIFA named Frenchman Jerome Valckeas its new general secretary on Wednesday -- less than eight months after it had "parted company" with Valcke and three other employees in the division he headed.
Valcke was the Director of the Marketing & TV Division responsible for negotiating a sponsorship agreement with Visa International that was ruled invalid by a Federal district court in New York in December. The decision was vacated on appeal and returned to the judge, and Mastercard and FIFA settled their lawsuit, paving the way for Visa International to come on board as one of FIFA's six main sponsors.
At one point in the lawsuit MasterCard filed for breach of the so-called first right of first refusal it had with FIFA in the credit card category, the district court judge noted Valcke's credibility was "totally destroyed" and FIFA itself stated last December in its dismissal of the four employees that it could not be overlooked that "FIFA's negotiations breached its business principles" and "FIFA cannot possibly accept such conduct among its own employees."
On Wednesday, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said at a news conference in Zurich that Valcke wasn't fired.
"This is not the responsibility of Jerome Valcke, this is the responsibility of the president of FIFA," Blatter said. "He was not sacked, he was suspended and he is still under contract with FIFA."
There had been bad blood between FIFA and MasterCard for a number of years regarding two-globes logos used by both parties. Blatter said a third of the $90 million settlement with MasterCard covered the trademark dispute.
"This is like a fish bone being removed from my throat," said Blatter. "Our partners were suing us since 2002 in over 30 disputes in various parts of the world concerning the trademark. This has been solved. It is quite a lot of money but I think it can be digested."
Valcke, 46, joined FIFA as Director of Marketing & TV in 2003. Having joined French television channel Canal+ as a journalist in 1984, he was appointed assistant head of its sports department in 1991. In 1997, he switched to Sport+ in the role of CEO, a position he occupied until 2002. He then spent a year as chief operating officer at Sportfive.
He will replace Urs Linsi, who resigned on June 11. FIFA's new Deputy General Secretary will be German Markus Kattner.
Linsi is believed to have lost out in a political fight with long-time Blatter ally Jack Warner, the CONCACAF president accused of profiteering from the illegal sale of black market World Cup tickets. Linsi's predecessor, Michel Zen Ruffinen, was a vocal critic of Warner's practices and left FIFA in 2002.