Sony Corp (SNE) is to end its sponsorhip of the soccer World Cup against the background of a corruption scandal over the award of the next two tournaments to Qatar and Russia, according to a report published Tuesday.
Citing a person familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal said that the company had decided not to renew its contract as one of six “official partners” of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, when it expires at the end of this year. The WSJ said the eight-year contract was worth 33 billion yen ($280 million).
The news is further evidence of the price FIFA is paying for its failure to clear up accusations of corruption in the tenders to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. The Japanese consumer electronics giant is the second major sponsor to walk away from one of the world’s biggest sporting events within weeks, following Emirates Airlines.
Earlier this month, FIFA refused to publish in full a report by U.S. lawyer Michael J. Garcia into the allegations. Instead, it released selected excerpts of the report, clearing itself of any wrongdoing. Garcia immediately responded that it had materially misrepresented his findings. FIFA’s conclusions effectively ended any prospect of re-staging the tenders.
The incident reignited outrage in Europe’s powerful national soccer associations and leagues at the shortcomings of FIFA’s management, and specifically at its Swiss head, Sepp Blatter.
The German soccer league, one of many which fears that its seasons will be disrupted by the need to move the Qatar tournament away from its traditional summer slot, has called for a European boycott of the tournaments in protest at the alleged cover-up.
In response to the uproar, FIFA later said it had passed the report to another internal committee and to the Swiss attorney-general, saying that “there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities.”
Sony hasn’t confirmed the report but had earlier called on FIFA to be thorough and transparent in investigating the allegations.
A FIFA spokesman said: “The existing contract with Sony runs until 31 December 2014 and we are currently in discussions with the brand.”