Dubai-based Emirates Airline will not renew its contract with FIFA as a top sponsor of the World Cup when it expires at the end of this year, and Japan’s Sony is also considering leaving, German publication Der Spiegel reports.
Together, the two companies accounted for half a billion dollars in sponsorship money for FIFA over the past several years.
Der Spiegel also reported that Qatar Airways is now negotiating with FIFA to sponsor the World Cup. The publication cited Secretary General Jerome Valcke as saying in September that he was in “promising talks” with the national carrier about a deal.
And a FIFA spokesperson told Doha News that “due to the ongoing negotiations, we cannot give any further information about future partners in this category at this stage.”
However, the spokesperson confirmed that Emirates was indeed not renewing its contract, and that “FIFA respects this.” He added that discussions to renew Sony’s contract are ongoing.
Emirates signed on to sponsor the World Cup from 2007 to 2014, for a reported $195 million. But the airline has been expressing concern about corruption at FIFA since at least 2011, with a spokesperson saying then:
“We are seriously thinking about not renewing our partnership with Fifa beyond 2014. We don’t get into politics, but we believe the situation with Fifa went beyond an internal problem and became much bigger.”
In addition to Emirates and Sony, there are currently four other top sponsors of the World Cup: Adidas, Visa, Coca-Cola and Hyundai/Kia.
Earlier this year, the major sponsors, except for Emirates, called on FIFA to address bribery allegations swirling around Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid. In a rare move, they argued that the accusations hurt the tournament’s image and demanded a full investigation.
Qatar has denied all corruption allegations. And at the time, such an investigation was already underway, as FIFA ethics chief Michael Garcia worked to prepare a lengthy report on both Qatar and Russia’s World Cup bids.
That document was submitted to a FIFA judge in September. At the time, Hans-Joachim Eckert said the report would be kept confidential, as per the football body’s code of conduct, and that his judgement would be made next year.
International media and Garcia himself have protested the move to keep the document under wraps, calling for FIFA to show greater transparency. Since then, Eckert has suggested he may release portions of the report to the public sometime this month.
Eckert has also said that regardless of his judgement, he does not have the authority to strip either Qatar or Russia of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, another ongoing problem regarding the 2022 World Cup – the weather – will see a new development today, when the European Club Association submits a proposal to move the tournament to April/May, instead of the traditional months of June/July.
The ECA argues that this would be less disruptive to their domestic seasons than pushing the games back all the way to November/December, which is another timeline under consideration as officials try to work out a way to avoid Qatar’s searing summer heat.
If the matches kick off at 6pm, 8:30pm and 11pm local time, the temperatures would be cooler and more manageable for players, the ECA said.
Another date being considered is January/February of 2022, but there are concerns about conflicts with the Winter Olympics.
A final decision on the 2022 World Cup dates is expected to be made in 2015.