Visa threatens to ditch FIFA as sponsor dismay mounts

Thu May 28, 2015 10:56am EDT
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By Anjali Athavaley and Emma Thomasson

NEW YORK/BERLIN (Reuters) - Visa Inc has told FIFA it could end its sponsorship if soccer's governing body does not act fast to restore the reputation of the game after senior officials were arrested on corruption charges.

The statement from Visa was the strongest so far as sponsors lined up to express concern about the scandal engulfing the world's most popular sport and their customers took to social media to threaten a boycott of brands associated with FIFA.

Sponsors are trying to balance the growing sensitivity of consumers to corruption, human rights abuses and environmental issues against their relationship with the organization that holds the keys to a billion soccer fans worldwide.

"Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound. As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization," Visa said.

"This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices," it said. "Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship."

U.S. prosecutors issued an indictment on Wednesday accusing nine officials from soccer's world governing body and five sports media and promotions executives of bribes involving more than $150 million over 24 years.

Airline Emirates [EMIRA.UL] and Japanese electronics maker Sony Corp announced in November they would not renew deals with FIFA, although rivals Qatar Airways and Samsung are reportedly in talks to replace them.

Emirates and Sony were among FIFA's six main partners who together paid a total of $177 million in 2014 for the right to advertise in World Cup stadiums and use the FIFA trademark.   Continued...

A Visa advertising banner is pictured as Italy's national soccer goalkeepers Gianluigi Buffon and Salvatore Sirigu drink during a training session ahead of the 2014 World Cup at the Portobello training center in Mangaratiba June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo/Files