World Cup soccer sponsors Adidas and Sony voiced concerns over allegations that bribes were paid to secure the 2022 tournament for Qatar, an issue that is overshadowing this week’s kickoff in Brazil. With its four yearly showpiece event only four days away, soccer’s governing body FIFA is on the defensive and is conducting an internal investigation into the decisions to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar.
The signs of unease from some of FIFA’s paymasters will raise pressure on the body to take a firm line on Qatar and underlying concerns about how it is run. “The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners,” said German sportswear company Adidas, which has signed up as FIFA sponsor until 2030.
Japanese consumer goods company Sony said it expected the allegations to be “investigated appropriately”. Britain’s Sunday Times has printed what it says are leaked documents showing bribes were paid to secure the event for Qatar. Former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia, leading FIFA’s internal investigation, is due to report in July, around a week after this year’s World Cup final. It is unusual for sponsors to say anything publicly on such a sensitive issue and the comments from Adidas and Sony reflect concern over the knock-on effects on their image.