World governing body FIFA confirmed on Friday that three major sponsors have ended their relationships with the organisation, but said there was nothing unusual about the development.
Oil manufacturers Castrol, tyre company Continental and healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson have followed Emirates and Sony by choosing not to renew contracts with FIFA that expired last year.
British newspaper the Daily Telegraph claimed the three companies had been deterred by allegations of corruption that have been levelled at FIFA following the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
But in a statement sent to AFP, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said: “Rotations at the end of a sponsorship cycle are commonplace in the sports industry and have continuously occurred since the commercialisation of the FIFA World Cup began.
“It is natural that as brands’ strategies evolve they reassess their sponsorship properties.
“The contracts with Castrol, Continental and Johnson and Johnson were always planned to run until the end of 2014 and therefore expired on 31 December 2014 accordingly.”
Weil added that FIFA was in “advanced negotiations with a number of companies” regarding sponsorship deals for the next World Cup cycle.
FIFA has already signed up Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom as a commercial partner ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Quoted by the Telegraph, a spokesperson from Castrol said: “We have not been sponsors of FIFA since, I believe, the World Cup last year.”
Johnson and Johnson stated: “It was a decision that was made for business reasons after a comprehensive review.”
Continental told the newspaper: “It was a great platform for us and now we’re using football on a regionalised level.”
British politician Damian Collins, who is leading a campaign to impose reform on FIFA, said the sponsors’ withdrawals proved that the organisation had become a “toxic brand”.
FIFA and its 78-year-old Swiss president Sepp Blatter have been dogged by accusations of corruption ever since Russia and Qatar won the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in 2010.
Blatter, who has presided over FIFA since 1998, will seek a fifth term in office in a presidential election scheduled to take place on May 29. – Agence France-Presse