Mutko blames Fifa's image problem for dearth of new World Cup sponsors
The “colossal” damage to Fifa’s image is handicapping efforts to attract sponsors for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, according to Vitaly Mutko, the head of the local organising committee.
However, Mutko (pictured), a Russian deputy prime minister, insisted that preparations for the tournament are proceeding smoothly.
The UK’s Financial Times newspaper reported this week that international and Russian companies had been deterred from sponsoring the World Cup because of the costs involved and the risks associated with partnering with the tainted Fifa brand.
The federation endured a torrid year after the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, losing several major sponsors, including Sony and Emirates, and becoming embroiled in various corruption scandals which led to the ousting of its president Sepp Blatter.
As a result, there are presently only 10 sponsors on board for the 2018 tournament, including just two – Gazprom and Alfa-Bank – from Russia itself.
The often outspoken Mutko was quoted by Interfax saying that the difficulties in securing partners “are tied to the fact that there was a huge attack against Fifa.”
He added: “Fifa has been accused of corruption and the like, they have ruined themselves. The losses in terms of image are colossal.”
However, Mutko claimed that Russia, which has itself been criticised for military incursions in Ukraine and Syria in recent years, was delivering on its promises for the World Cup, saying: “Fifa is running into difficulties not for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but in general.”
There were vacancies for up to 20 third-tier ‘regional supporters’ from five territories for the tournament, but only one has been filled, by Alfa-Bank, with other Russian companies apparently put off by the recession in the country in the last two years.
Andrei Malgin, a professor at the Russian Olympic University, told the Financial Times: “They’re essentially worried that they’ll pay the money and won’t see any marketing benefits.”
Earlier this month, Hisense, the Chinese consumer electronics company, signed up as a second-tier ‘official sponsor’ of the 2018 World Cup and Fifa says it expects to announce new commercial deals “in the next weeks and months, and before the World Cup.”
The federation recently posted a net loss of $369 million for 2016, but is a projecting a surplus of $100 million, from revenues of $5.65 billion, for the whole four-year World Cup cycle, as more sponsors sign up.
Michael Payne, the influential former marketing director of the International Olympic Committee, does not believe this optimism is entirely unfounded, saying: “It would take a very brave chief marketing officer to say let’s take Fifa and the World Cup. But… the actual product and sport of football… remains one of the most – if not the most – entertaining sports entertaining platforms in the world.”
Russia is staging this year’s Confederations Cup as a dress rehearsal for the main event and the organisers this week launched the final phase of the ticket sales process.
Tickets can be bought at dedicated outlets in the host cities of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Sochi, with the one in Kazan to open at a later date, and online at FIFA.com/tickets, with Alfa-Bank involved in the process.
The tournament takes place from 17 June to 2 July and involves the hosts Russia, the World Cup holders Germany and the champions of six continents in Australia, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and Portugal.