NEW YORK/ZURICH: FIFA’s recent history of corruption appears to be having an effect on its ability to attract sponsors for next year’s World Cup in Russia, while broadcasters there have yet to agree a price for the television rights to the competition.

Back in 2015, senior FIFA officials were arrested on corruption charges when Swiss police opened a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. And in New York this week, an ongoing trial has heard detailed allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup.

The New York Times noted that, six months ahead of the 2018 tournament, gaps remained across FIFA’s three tiers of sponsorship that it would normally have expected to have filled by now.

The top tier, FIFA Partners, is largely filled, with Gazprom (Russia) and Qatar Aiwarys joining long-time stalwarts such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa, but one space remains available .

The second tier, FIFA World Cup Sponsors, currently contains four companies rather than the six to eight suggested in FIFA’s guidelines.

The third tier, Regional Supporters, provides for up to 20 companies – four each from five world regions – but only Alfa Bank, a Russian business, has so far taken up the offer.

“Unless you are from China or somewhere like that, where the fact FIFA is in court in New York and associated with corruption doesn’t matter, no corporation is going to consider it safe to get involved with FIFA,” according to Patrick Nally, a sports sponsorship executive who helped bring Coca-Cola on board with FIFA back in 1977.

The FIFA brand, he added, was and remains “toxic” – so much so that it should consider a name change and a rebrand.

“The word FIFA globally has got just the worst image in the world,” he said. “If you are trying to sell the FIFA brand, if anything those four letters stand for absolute total corruption and it’s so unattractive.”

And even if a brand is willing to trade the association with FIFA for the reach it offers, it is leaving it very late to make the most use of any deal. Planning can take six months and any campaign would normally be in the market before Christmas, February at the latest.

Nor are FIFA’s problems limited to finding sponsors: Russian broadcasters are reluctant to pay its asking price of $100m for the domestic rights to next year’s tournament.

Sourced from The New York Times, FIFA; additional content by WARC staff