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FIFA, WCup sponsors talk in secret over corruption crisis


Zurich: FIFA has met with some World Cup sponsors in a meeting they demanded after a corruption crisis rocked football’s governing body.

Little detail was revealed after the closed-door session yesterday, shrouded in secrecy at FIFA headquarters and attended by Adidas, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa.

“No further comment will be made on the internal discussions between the parties,” FIFA said in a terse, three-paragraph statement.

Still, FIFA said it had “reaffirmed its commitment to transparency, reform, and collaboration with its valued partners.”

The five sponsors issued a joint statement of just two paragraphs.

“FIFA provided the sponsors with updates on several topics,” it noted. “During this meeting, we reiterated our expectations for robust reform, and we will continue to engage with FIFA.”

Gazprom and Hyundai were absent without a reason given by FIFA or the sponsors. No mention was made yesterday of appointing two sponsor representatives scheduled to join a FIFA-appointed reforms committee.

The reforms panel, chaired by former IOC director general Francois Carrard, first meets Sept. 2-3 in Bern, Switzerland, FIFA said earlier yesterday.

Long-standing sponsors typically slow to criticize FIFA have spoken out since American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption were revealed in May.

Six current or former FIFA executive committee members were indicted or had guilty pleas unsealed by the U.S. Justice Department which is investigating bribery, fraud and racketeering in the allocation of broadcasting rights and tournament hosts.

The case prompted FIFA President Sepp Blatter, a target of U.S. prosecutors, to announce he would leave within months and try to reform the scandal-plagued organization.

However, Visa said last month it doubted that “meaningful progress can be made under FIFA’s existing leadership.”

Current sponsors fill only seven of 34 available slots FIFA has allocated for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

FIFA has a revenue target of around USD 6 billion in the four-year commercial cycle tied to the tournament, but ha  failed to sign any new deals since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

No major deals are likely to be signed before the election to replace Blatter is held on Feb. 26, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said last month.

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