Electronics giant Sony Corp. is reportedly pulling out as a World Cup sponsor amid unresolved allegations of corruption surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 football tournaments.
The Japanese-based firm would be the second company to withdraw its support for the tournaments, which will be held in Russia and Qatar respectively, after Emirates Airline announced it would not be renewing its contract with FIFA when its current deal expires at the end of this year.
The news involving Sony comes several days after fellow sponsor Coca-Cola publicly criticized football’s governing body for the recent “disappointing” handling of its investigation into corruption allegations, according to The Sunday Times.
The newspaper quotes a spokesperson for the soft drinks company as saying:
“Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern for us. The current conflicting perspectives regarding the investigation are disappointing. Our expectation is that this will be resolved quickly in a transparent and efficient manner.”
FIFA’s World Cup sponsors – including Adidas, BP, Budweiser, Hyundai/Kia and Visa – have been publicly grumbling about corruption allegations for months.
However, the latest reports surrounding Coca-Cola and Sony suggest that FIFA is failing to allay their concerns, and that some companies would rather cut ties with the international football body than be associated with the upcoming tournaments in Russia and Qatar.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Sony has been cutting costs and restructuring its electronics division, which includes the smartphone business that has been prominently featured in its World Cup-related marketing.
While the internal reorganization may be one reason for the move, the newspaper cited an unnamed source as saying the company was also concerned about the possible negative implications of continuing to be connected to FIFA.
The football federation has been roundly criticized for its handling of a recent investigation into bribery allegations.
Earlier this month, it published a summary of an internal report that failed to find evidence of corruption in Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup. It also said that there was no reason to re-run the voting process for either the 2022 tournament or the 2018 World Cup that’s to be held in Russia.
Hours later, however, Michael Garcia – the investigator who spent two years researching the allegations and authored the report that formed the basis of the summary published by FIFA – said the document released to the public contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions.”
For its part, a FIFA spokesperson said in a statement to Doha News today that “The existing contract with Sony runs until 31 December 2014 and we are currently in discussions with the brand.”
Together, the Sony and Emirates sponsorships accounted for approximately half a billion dollars in revenues for FIFA in recent years that it will be looking to replace.