'Need to enquire charges on WC 2022'

'Need to enquire charges on WC 2022'

World Cup soccer sponsors Adidas  and Sony voiced concerns over allegations that bribes were paid to secure the 2022 tournament for Qatar, an issue that is overshadowing this week's kick-off in Brazil.

With its four yearly showpiece event only four days away, soccer's governing body FIFA is on the defensive and is conducting an internal investigation into the decisions to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar.

The signs of unease from some of FIFA's paymasters will raise pressure on the body, led by its Swiss president Sepp Blatter, to take a firm line on Qatar and underlying concerns about how it is run.

“The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners,” said German sportswear company Adidas, which has signed up as FIFA sponsor until 2030. Japanese consumer goods company Sony said it expected the allegations to be “investigated appropriately”. It is unusual for sponsors to say anything publicly on such a sensitive issue and the comments from Adidas and Sony reflect concern over the knock-on effects on their image.

“This underlines that companies need to make sure that any high profile association enhances their reputation rather than damages it,” said Andy Sutherden, Global Head of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship at communications firm H+K Strategies.

FIFA earned almost $1.4 billion last year, including more than $600 million from the sale of broadcasting rights and more than $400 million from sponsors and other marketing partners. US broadcaster Fox, which paid an estimated $425 million for rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, was already unhappy with plans to switch the dates of the Qatar tournament to later in the calendar year when it would clash with the NFL American football programme.

Argentina legend Diego Maradona also lashed out at “bribes” within FIFA, demanding action against those involved in corruption claims linked to Qatar’s bid.

“There are huge bribes” in the world football governing body, UAE-based Maradona told Abu Dhabi daily, Al-Ittihad.