Friday, November 7, 2014

Emirates fly from FIFA, FBI key to Blazer betrayal

Emirates Airlines has withdrawn from sponsoring the World Cup.

The Dubai-based company was one of FIFA's six 'Tier One' major World Cup sponsors along with Coca-Cola, Visa, Hyundai/Kia, Sony and Adidas.

Their press release gave little away: "This decision was made," it explained, "following an evaluation of FIFA's contract proposal which did not meet Emirates' expectations."

However, it would be a surprise if the volte-face was not down to the continuingly negative news surrounding FIFA's notorious double World Cup vote in 2010.

Emirates not only had the 2022 tournament on their doorstep in Qatar but are already heavily involved in football, sponsoring many tournaments and high-profile teams including Real Madrid, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, whose stadium is named after the airline.

None of the six big sponsors look good in the light of relentless corruption stories, but only Sony has so far hinted at following Emirates' lead. Second-tier sponsors BP and Budweiser have expressed worries about FIFA's soiled reputation.

Hitting football's governing body where it hurts, in the pocket, is perhaps the only hope of washing away the den of thieves who have run football for too long.

Visa, Sony and Adidas, whose relationship with FIFA is apparently umbilical since the founder's son Horst Dassler befriended FIFA boss Joao Havelange, expressed concern at the corruption allegations back in the summer.

Yet Qatar Airways and Samsung are rumoured to be willing to step in to form part of the magic circle of six if anyone else pulls out.

Emirates have gone from the top table, but with the World Cup still the planet's biggest draw, it is hard to see how the biggest global companies will refuse to claim their places at the feast.


***

Only this weekend, the New York Daily News ran a story revealing that former Executive Committee stalwart Chuck Blazer was used by the FBI to spy on his colleagues until they hung him out to dry in 2013, when FIFA suspended him from all football-related activities.

Blazer's champagne lifestyle and embezzlement of football funds had already been well documented, featuring Caribbean properties, a pad in Trump Tower and a $6 million flat for his cats, but the FBI link finally explains his shopping of his CONCACAF boss Jack Warner & FIFA Presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam in 2011.

The pair had tried to bribe the Caribbean Football Union with bags of cash to vote for Bin Hamman.

The super-sized American's huge girth and even larger self-aggrandizement, as evinced by his pompous blog, could not have made his malfeasance more obvious.

The New Yorker cruised around the Big Apple's top restaurants in a motor scooter while his vintage Mercedes was parked in Zurich for FIFA business. He pocketed more than $15 million in FIFA kickbacks yet ran up a $29 million credit card bill, all the while evading tax, the Achilles Heel which did for Al Capone.

Blazer is being treated for colon cancer, but the disease of corruption still infects FIFA too much for comfort. Meanwhile Michael Garcia's report for the tautologically-named FIFA Ethics Committee remains locked away in Switzerland.

The world's press pack are now well aware of FIFA's light fingers, and any false step in future will be pounced upon in the same way the Sunday Times' unleashed a tsunami of allegations of bribery surrounding the 2022 World Cup vote.

Thankfully the USA is now represented in the Ex.Co. by the far cleaner Sunil Gulati, a businessman who instead of wallowing in Jack Warner's racket, has made a career building Major League Soccer into a credible league amid the well-established American domestic sports market.

-Sean O'Conor

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