Five of FIFA's six corporate partners have now expressed their sudden concern over allegations of bribery and corruption related to Qatar being awarded hosting duties four years ago for the 2022 World Cup. An ongoing Sunday Times investigation has led to allegations of former top Qatari football official Mohamed Bin Hammam engineering backroom deals to secure votes from African and Asian FIFA officials.
Sony was the first to speak out amidst this most recent round of bad press for FIFA, calling for the allegations to be "investigated appropriately." Adidas and Visa soon followed with statements of their own. From Reuters:
"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.
"Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us," a company statement read.
"But we are confident that FIFA is taking these allegations very seriously and is investigating them thoroughly through the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.
"The FIFA World Cup is a platform that unites people all over the world, inspiring and celebrating the world's most popular sport while creating memorable experiences for athletes and fans. We believe that through our partnership and continued involvement with FIFA we can help foster optimism and unity, while making a positive difference in the communities we serve."
And Hyundai echoed that troubling declaration of confidence in FIFA (via Football Italia):
“We are confident that FIFA is taking these allegations seriously and that the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee will conduct a thorough investigation,” a spokesman for the company has said today.
Of FIFA's six corporate partners, Emirates Airlines is the only one to remain quiet on the matter.
Given FIFA's supreme control over the game, the only people who have the power to force change and transparency within the secretive and swindling governing body are the money men who keep the cash flowing in. If Sony, Visa, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Hyundai are truly concerned about these accusations and not just trying to publicly distance themselves from the problem (and that's a big "if"), then FIFA will find it very difficult to ignore them.
These statements don't mean FIFA will now scurry to clean house and hold a re-vote for the 2022 World Cup, though. Since it's taken this long for these corporations to make public statements about the controversy surrounding Qatar as a World Cup host, there's good reason to believe that they're still not ready to strong arm FIFA into drastic changes. Partnering with FIFA is a very profitable endeavor for all of them. And, it's worth noting, that they didn't make a peep when the human rights abuses that have resulted in hundreds of migrant worker deaths were revealed as Qatar builds entire host cities from scratch.
Just remember that saying something is nice, but doing something is better.
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