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FIFA sponsors start to get antsy
by Paul Kennedy, June 8th, 2014 10:33PM
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TAGS:  fifa, world cup 2022


[QATAR 2022] That "drip, drip, drip" you're hearing is the Sunday Times' expose into Qatari Mohammed bin Hamman's efforts to garner support on FIFA's executive committee for the successful Qatar 2022 bid. Following the second week of reporting by the Sunday Times into the millions of electronic documents it gained access, four official FIFA partners issued statements expressing both concern (and confidence) that "appropriate steps" are being taken by FIFA.

How long before FIFA sponsors, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the exclusive right to have their names associated with the World Cup, came out and condemned soccer's world governing body has always been the big question, as their power of the purse is about the only leverage anyone has to shake up the Zurich organization.

"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.

"Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us," Coca-Cola said in a statement, "but we are confident that FIFA is taking these allegations very seriously and is investigating them thoroughly."

Visa and Sony both made statements on the eve of the FIFA Congress that at the very least show they aren't ignorant to the damage that is being done to FIFA's name. The only official sponsors not to issue statements were Hyundai and Emirates.

Adidas and Coca-Cola are longtime FIFA sponsors going back to the days of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, whose power base, ironically, was built on the development programs introduced in the Third World and funded by FIFA's sponsors.

What action, if any, FIFA takes about the latest allegations remains to be seen. FIFA investigator Michael J. Garcia, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is set to finish his report for submission to FIFA's ethics commission after the World Cup. But Garcia, whose report into the ISL scandal led to Havelange resigning from his honorary FIFA post, is unlikely to delve into the charges made by the Sunday Times. His office intends to wrap up its investigation on Monday.

A good portion of the latest Sunday Times reports makes good reading into the lifestyles of FIFA's power elite but is standard fare into high-stakes international lobbying. What the Sunday Times has attempted to expose are the efforts bin Hammam undertook to use Qatar's wealth and energy power to attract the attention of members of the executive committee and their governments.

The Sunday Times reported documents it obtained show bin Hammam used the prospect of providing access to Qatari energy deal-makers to lobby Thai Worawi Makudi, a member of the FIFA executive committee, and Thai energy officials.

Just as bin Hammam reportedly spent $5 million on currying favors in Africa, he spent another $1.5 million in Asia, according to the Sunday Times' investigation. But the bottom line was his effort to win the support of other Asian members of the FIFA executive committee: South Korean Chung Mong-joon and Junji Ogura of Japan, both representing rival bidders in the 2022 race, and Makudi.

Bin Hammam's skill as a politician was evident as the Sunday Times reported how bin Hammam won over the support of his former enemy, Chung, who in 2009 had accused bin Hammam of "acting like a head of a crime organization” as president of the Asian Football Confederation and branded him mentally unstable. Bin Hammam and Chung shared one thing in common: they were political enemies of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and bin Hammam could provide him help -- and as the Sunday Times charges, a political fixer -- as Blatter sought to oust Chung from the FIFA executive committee.

The irony, of course, is by the middle of 2011, less than six months after bin Hammam and Chung (presumably) voted for Qatar, both were off the FIFA executive committee, bin Hammam removed after being caught trying to bribe Caribbean officials in his bid to unseat Blatter for FIFA president and Chung defeated by young Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, the Blatter candidate and "reform candidate," for the Asian vice president's seat on the FIFA executive committee.

The Sunday Times' tour of the world also included a sidetrip to Europe for a look at bin Hammam's lobbying efforts to secure the support of the two most famous members of the FIFA executive committee in 2010, Frenchman Michel Platini and German Franz Beckenbauer, and how bin Hammam carried on his relationship with private citizen Beckenbauer in 2011 after the former German captain and coach stepped down from the executive committee.

Before the latest Sunday Times report, Beckenbauer had distanced himself from the allegations by saying, “I have never been acting for Qatar nor for Mohamed bin Hammam.” While Platini has stated he voted for Qatar, it is not known whether Beckenbauer, an early supporter of Australia, voted for Qatar or the USA in the final ballot that went 14-8 to Qatar. (It is believed, though, Beckenbauer jumped on the USA bandwagon in the second round of voting after Australia was eliminated.)

Beckenbauer came in for criticism of his own Sunday following his admission that he refused to cooperate with FIFA investigator Garcia since he was no longer a FIFA member. A member of the executive committee told the Daily Telegraph anonymously that Beckenbauer’s refusal to cooperate was “pathetic."

No word on where the Sunday Times will go next Sunday but a likely target is South America, where support toward Qatar away from the USA and Conmebol's geographic ally, Concacaf, ultimately tipped the scales in Qatar 2022's favor.

  1. Kevin Sims
    commented on: June 9, 2014 at 8 a.m.
    commented on: June 9, 2014 at 9:55 a.m.
    would go there b4 cccp redux
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: June 9, 2014 at 1:20 p.m.
    FIFA has become a greed machine. Poor venue decisions were made for WCs 2014, 2018, and 2022. Corruption is rampant and what was the global jewel of sports is becoming a disaster.
  1. Nancy Carr-swaim
    commented on: June 9, 2014 at 4:22 p.m.
    Enough already! FIFA just needs to admit things were done wrongly and redo the bid for 2022. Qatar does not deserve it and everyone knows that. They're just digging a deeper hole the longer they deny that bribes took place. Also, make it a requirement that World Cup hosts cannot make more than 8 stadium sites like Brazil tried to do.

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