Fifa has received a much-needed boost to its sponsorship coffers after Qatar Airways came on board as a major sponsor for the next two World Cups, including the 2022 event in its home market.
Soccer’s international governing body said: “The partnership represents one of the biggest sporting sponsorships in the world and the largest in the history of Qatar Airways.”
The state-owned airline has become a top-tier Fifa partner in a deal that covers the 2017 Confederations Cup and 2018 World Cup in Russia, the annual Club World Cup, the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
It will also have visibility at competitions including the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, the Fifa Futsal World Cup and the Fifa Interactive World Cup.
A deal with Qatar Airways was widely expected after the Middle East country was controversially awarded the World Cup back in December 2010, and Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, ended its sponsorship of Fifa after the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
The new agreement was announced ahead of this week’s Fifa Congress in Manama in Bahrain, and involves Qatar Airways joining Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyundai, Visa and Wanda Group as an elite sponsor of the federation.
It will be seen as a financial fillip as Fifa has struggled to attract new sponsors since the corruption-riddled year of 2015 in which various senior officials, including its former (and now-banned) president Sepp Blatter were implicated in a series of damaging scandals.
The federation recently posted a net loss of $369 million for 2016, but is projecting a surplus of $100 million, from revenues of $5.65 billion, for the whole four-year World Cup cycle to 2018, as more sponsors sign up.
Qatar Airways is already a familiar presence in soccer as the shirt sponsor of top Spanish club Barcelona although it is to be replaced by Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten next season and a mooted deal to remain a partner at a lower level has yet to be concluded.
Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura (pictured right) said: “Fifa is delighted to partner with the world’s fastest-growing airline, Qatar Airways. Known for introducing industry firsts, Qatar Airways is an ideal partner for Fifa as we prepare for the first-ever World Cup in the Gulf region, the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. We look forward to working hand-in-hand with Qatar Airways to promote Fifa competitions and football around the world.“
Akbar Al Baker, the group chief executive of Qatar Airways (pictured left), added: “Qatar Airways understands the power of sport in bringing people together in the spirit of friendly competition. Fifa, as the governing body of the world’s most popular sporting tournament, the Fifa World Cup, understands the power of football’s popularity, and as such is a natural partner for Qatar Airways.
“We look forward to celebrating wins with the fans, being inspired by the artistry of the players, and to the excitement of each match over the next two Fifa competition cycles, until the 2022 Fifa World Cup, which will be held in our home country, the State of Qatar.”
In addition to Barcelona, Qatar Airways is a sponsor of top Saudi Arabia club Al-Ahli and last week signed up to serve as the official airline of the Paris and New York rounds of the Formula E electric car racing series in 2017. It was previously the official carrier of cycling’s 2016 UCI Road World Championships held in the Qatari capital Doha.