Football - 28 Nov 2012 - By Simon Ward
Commercial plans for soccer’s 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup in Brazil are well advanced, with only the absence of a broadcaster in Spain a cause for concern, according to Fifa, the sport’s international governing body.
While stadia in Brazil still have to be completed, Fifa is already looking far beyond these tournaments, with one sponsor now signed up as far as 2030.
Last week, Apex-Brasil, the Brazilian trade and investment agency, was unveiled as the fifth of six third-tier ‘National Supporters’ of the 2014 World Cup, leaving just one space to be filled in the sponsorship programme for the tournament.
The international federation long ago secured the six top-tier ‘Fifa Partners’, with rights to major events from 2007 to 2014 (Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai-Kia, Emirates, Sony and Visa), plus eight second-tier ‘World Cup Sponsors’, with specific rights to the 2014 tournament (Budweiser, Castrol, Continental, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Oi, Seara and Yingli Solar).
In addition, Coca-Cola, Hyundai and Budweiser have extended their deals to 2022, and one as-yet-unnamed Fifa Partner is committed for a further eight years.
The main unfinished business for the 2014 World Cup is the stadia, although Fifa is confident that the necessary venues will be ready for the tournament and the preceding Confederations Cup, and securing a television deal in Spain, the home of the world champions, where spending on rights has been hit by the economic downturn.
In an interview for the Fifa website ahead of a visit to Brazil this week, Fifa secretary general Jérôme Valcke said: “The 2014 World Cup is sold, the only thing you can buy are tickets. The sponsorship packages are basically finished for 2014, we have sold all six Fifa partners until 2014, some already until 2022 and one until 2030.
“We are close to finalising most for 2018 and 2022, and it is amazing that, in fact, in a world which is facing hard times, there is no decrease in value. The only difficulty is the TV market in Europe, Spain particularly, as we have not yet sold the rights for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.”
A senior agency executive familiar with the Spanish market told Sportcal last month that he understood that Fifa, which is selling the rights directly in Spain, had put an initial price tag of €100 million ($129 million) on the rights, a slight increase on the €90 million paid for the rights to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which was won by Spain.
However, he said that, hit by government budget cuts or falling advertising income, public-service broadcaster TVE and the country’s two main commercial broadcasting groups, Mediaset Espana and Antena 3, could realistically only afford to pay around €50 million.
Spain is the last of the five major European markets, which also comprise Germany, the UK, Italy and France, in which rights for the 2014 World Cup still have to be sold and Valcke acknowledged the challenging market conditions when he spoke to Sportcal in July.
At the time he said: “We knew what we were doing when we decided to do a deal for 2010 only in Spain. We have open eyes; we see what’s happening around the world. In some European countries it’s more difficult. But finally we will have a deal – not a record-breaking one but we will never give the rights away for free.”
Sponsors have remained loyal to Fifa despite allegations of corruption during the bidding race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the presidential election campaign of 2011 and the release of a Swiss court document showing that ISL, the federation’s former marketing partner, paid bribes to Fifa executives prior to its collapse in 2001.
The scandals have prompted Fifa president Sepp Blatter to launch a reform programme to deter corruption and restore faith in the organisation around the world.
However, Emirates, the Dubai airline and a Fifa Partner, has said it will wait to see the reforms enacted before making a decision on whether to extend its deal beyond the next World Cup.
Last week, Emirates senior vice president Boutros Boutros told AP: “So far they [Fifa] talk a lot about them, but we are yet to see. They look serious about it and we are optimistic. We hope they will work on it and do what the people want… we are waiting until after 2014 to evaluate.”
Looking ahead to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Valcke has said this week that the National Supporter category will be widened to include companies across Europe but Fifa will expect significant domestic interest given the success of the sponsorship programme for the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi and the major involvement in soccer of Russian firms such as oil and gas giant Gazprom.
There will also be optimism about the commercial opportunities at the 2022 World Cup, which was controversially awarded to Qatar, because of the recent growth in spending on sport by companies in the Middle East.
Valcke is in Brazil this week for the final round of visits to World Cup host cities, taking in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Sao Paulo.
Venues are at different stages of completion and Valcke has previously clashed with the World Cup organisers over the pace of preparations. However, he is confident that Brazil will deliver the six venues for the Confederations Cup and the 12 venues for the World Cup on time.
Speaking at the opening of the Soccerex convention on Monday, Valcke said: “We are no longer fighting each other because it is pointless. Unlike a couple, Fifa and the local organising committee cannot divorce. The most important thing is to work together to find solutions to outstanding problems.”
While some stadia for the Confederations Cup, which takes place in June of next year, will not be ready until mid-April, limiting the time for testing, the main logistical issues for the World Cup surround supporting infrastructure such as airports and hotels, and many fans may have to be flown in and out of some cities on the same day.
Valcke said: “We have one city, which I will not name, where there are 17,000 rooms and 45,000 seats in the stadium, so the only solution would be to have three people in one bed.”
However, the Fifa secretary general has been generally complimentary during his latest visit to Brazil, describing the Maracana stadium in Rio, which is being renovated to host major matches, including the World Cup final, as “a spectacular place, a fantastic stadium” and saying of the new Arena de Baixada in Curitiba that “the lead times are perfect and the schedule is being met.”
His tour is set to end with a board meeting with the World Cup organising committee today, ahead of the draw for the Confederations Cup in Sao Paulo on Saturday.
Meanwhile, police have this week questioned Marco Polo Del Nero, the vice president of the CBF, the Brazilian soccer confederation, and a member of Fifa’s executive committee, as part of an investigation into financial wrongdoing by criminal organisations in the country.
The regional Paulista Football Federation, which is headed by Del Nero, said that the probe was not related to his soccer activities and the man himself has denied that it will impact on his work, telling the UOL Esporte agency: “I’m totally at ease. This is a personal matter that I cannot discuss publicly…It will not affect anything.”