FIFA's 2018 World Cup is a hard sell

Against a backdrop of corruption and Russian aggression - sponsors have been slow to back the tournament...

BY Joseph Conroy 14:49 Wednesday 19 April 2017, 14:49 19 Apr 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, during a meeting with FIFA president Giovanni Infantino, at the Kremlin / Sergey Guneev/Zuma Press/PA Images

Just over one year out from Russia's 2018 World Cup, FIFA has been slow to attract flagship sponsors.

So far, only 10 companies have been named as commercial partners - that's half the number of firms who backed the last tournament in Brazil.

A number of long-standing backers cut their ties with FIFA following that tournament.

The world governing body was hit with a series of corruption scandals in 2015 which involved investigations into bribery and racketeering.

This ultimately resulted in former FIFA president Sepp Blather stepping down after he received an eight-year ban from "all football-related activities" following a corruption probe.

Sony and Emirates, major Brazil 2014 sponsors, have distanced themselves from FIFA. Castrol, Continental and Johnson & Johnson are also among the 2014 sponsors who haven not returned.

Almost all of Brazil 2014's sponsorship slots were allocated three years before kickoff.

Brands will need to shell out up to $150m for top-tier sponsorship spots.

The tournament's lead-in period has coincided with Russia's annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine - as well as fears of crowd trouble following clashes involving Russian hooligans at Euro 2016.

The country's economy has also struggled in recent years. Alfa-Bank is the only 'national' partner signed-up from the Russian business community.

In the red

FIFA reported earlier this month that it ended 2016 with a loss of $369m as legal costs and sponsors' caution hit its bottom line.

"It goes without saying that stagnant global trade and subdued investment, combined with investigations surrounding previous FIFA officials, have put pressure on the organisation's overall revenue generation," the sports body commented.

It added that it still expects to generate a $1bn surplus for the total period between 2015 and 2018.

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