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FIFA Shame at MasterCard Verdict

In the world of soccer, FIFA's word is law. What it says goes, usually without exception. This is not so in the real world, however, and FIFA was dealt a heavy dose of reality recently, as U.S. district judge Loretta Preska founded in favor of MasterCard over a case in which the credit card company sued FIFA for breach of contract. (Read Preska's opinion here.) FIFA was holding negotiations with Visa even though MasterCard's contract, which spanned five World Cups and expired after last summer's tournament, granted it the right of first refusal. Not only did FIFA lie to MasterCard, the judge said, it also lied to Visa in the way it framed its ongoing negotiations with MasterCard. Paul Gardner of the New York Sun praises the lucid way in which Preska writes her report, chastising FIFA's Tom Houseman for the way he "holds himself out as legal counsel but is not authorized to practice law in any jurisdiction." Of marketing director Jerome Valcke, Preska says his credibility was "totally destroyed" by the way he dangled MasterCard's $180 million contract offer in front of Visa, telling the credit card provider the sponsorship was theirs if they could match the offer and respond with a marketing share in kind. There's much more to this story, including suggestions that FIFA may have backdated its contract offer from Visa, as well as forged Visa International president's signature. These were unproven, but FIFA offered no explanation, either. To make matters worse, internal emails show that FIFA was well aware of its wrongdoing. On April 10, FIFA announced its new deal with Visa, but Preska's verdict means that FIFA is now required to accept MasterCard's agreement. It has since fired the four executives involved in the case.

Read the whole story at New York Sun »

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