Sponsors trying to call the shots about the events they support is always a cause for unease – just as it is when advertisers try to influence editorial content.
But football’s world government body FIFA is enough to make anyone revise their gentlemanly precepts and now top tier World Cup sponsors Adidas (which builds most of its marketing effort around World Cups), Sony and Visa are all calling for a re-run of the bidding for the 2022 World Cup which was, bizarrely, awarded to Qatar.
This follows more revelations in the UK’s Sunday Times about skullduggery in the bidding process, with Asian FIFA delegates allegedly pocketing bungs all over the place and Qatar organising a sweetheart gas deal with Thailand to keep that country’s representatives happy.
Another sponsor, Coca-Cola, has also expressed its concern although it’s said it’s confident FIFA’s own investigation will do the trick, probably because a former US prosecutor is carrying it out – not very exhaustively, it seems.
Qatar, with no football back story to speak of (although Qatari interests do own Manchester City) and summertime temperatures of up to 50 degrees, was a lways a fishy choice. Even FIFA now acknowledges it was a ‘mistake.’
Even more intriguingly, the ST revelations have also linked Russia with the Qatar bid – Russia has been awarded the 2018 World Cup against opposition from, among others, the UK.
Russia in four years’ time was already looking a potential nightmare as its involvement in Ukraine could result in a boycott by the US and, less likely, some European countries. Rather redolent of the 1980 Moscow Olympics which the US boycotted because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (30-odd years before the Americans did the same thing, of course).
Someone once remarked that sport was ‘war by other means.’ It certainly seems to have become politics (and maybe economics) by other means. Being an official sponsor of one of these things is looking less and less like good business.