TIME FIFA

Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

adidas Starts Production of Brazuca Match Balls
Lennart Preiss—Getty Images for adidas Brazuca match balls for the FIFA World Cup 2014 lie in a rack in front of the adidas logo on December 6, 2013 in Scheinfeld near Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Few want to discuss soccer's most important crisis

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

More than 20 hours after this story was published, Adidas sent another statement: “The adidas Group is committed to ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. These active efforts are guided by our core values as a company as well as by our Workplace Standards – contractual obligations under the manufacturing agreements the adidas Group signs with its main business partners. The Workplace Standards are based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) core labour rights conventions.

“We are in a constant dialogue with our partner FIFA and know that FIFA has repeatedly urged the Qatari authorities to ensure decent conditions for migrant workers in the country. There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing; but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved.”

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official said in a statement: “Kia Motors takes seriously any reports concerning the poor treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is our understanding that FIFA and related authorities are taking immediate steps to secure appropriate standards of welfare for all workers involved in these projects, and we will continue to monitor developments in Qatar very closely.” Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.

TIME Advertising

Here’s How Major FIFA Sponsors Are Reacting to the Scandal

After nine FIFA officials were arrested, sponsors are in the spotlight

The dollar figures associated with the FIFA are all outsize, including the amount of money it garners every year from marketing partnerships. In 2014, it was $177 million.

The corporations that contribute to that sum immediately became the target of scrutiny on Wednesday when the United States Department of Justice unsealed a 47-count indictment that charged nine FIFA officials and five sports marketing executives with racketing, wire fraud and money-laundering.

The indictment placed FIFA sponsors in a pickle: should they continue to market their products through a sport with millions of fans but whose governing body is allegedly seeping with corruption?

Cue sponsors’ delicate dance.

Visa Inc., which has partnered with FIFA since 2007, told The Wall Street Journal the investigations could cause the company to end its agreement, which runs until 2022. Visa said that it had informed the federation that it “will reassess its sponsorship” if FIFA fails to rebuild “a culture with strong ethical practices to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere”

Adidas AG told the Journal that it was monitoring the situation, as did Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Hyundai Motors said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

It’s safe to say FIFA’s sponsors are in a tough spot. Wednesday’s indictment was scalding, but it’s unlikely to deplete the sport’s massive fan following. An estimated 1 billion people watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup final. For comparison, 114.4 million people tuned into this year’s Super Bowl.

Like it or not, FIFA sponsors’ immediate reaction to Wednesday’s news is in line with how sponsors have reacted to other sports scandals. When the National Football League faced criticism this fall for how it handled players’ questionable conduct, companies like Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch voiced concern over the incidents but they never withdrew their sponsorships.

TIME Soccer

Fallout From FIFA Corruption Probe Intensifies

Soccer's governing body is also at risk of losing millions in sponsorship deals

Corporate sponsors are scrambling to distance themselves from the sprawling corruption dragnet launched against soccer’s global governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), by American and Swiss authorities this week.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in the U.S. unveiled a 47-count indictment against 14 defendants tied to the federation, including nine FIFA officials, who are accused of involvement in racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies.

“Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110 million — nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, told reporters during a press conference in Brooklyn.

The presentation of the indictment in New York City came as officials in Switzerland launched their own criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, following the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich on the eve of the federation’s 65th international congress in the city.

Corporate sponsors linked to the organization appear to be in all-out damage control mode as the investigation made international headlines. World Cup sponsor Visa joined the chorus of saber rattlers lambasting FIFA and threatened to abandon its deal with the organization if it failed to weed out corruption in its ranks.

“It is important that FIFA makes changes now,” read a statement released by Visa. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Global soft-drink juggernaut Coca-Cola, which is also listed as one of seven FIFA partners for the 2018 World Cup, also sought to disassociate itself from the investigation, blasting the association for bringing disrepute to the sport.

“This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” said the company in a statement.

However, sponsors also appear to be firmly in the crosshairs of the U.S Justice Department.

During the press conference in Brooklyn, Attorney General Lynch said the corruption probe also covered “agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,” a not-so-vague reference to the 10-year, $160 million deal that Nike and the Brazilian national team inked in 1996.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials promised that the investigation launched this week was only the first chapter in their probe into corruption in international soccer.

“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” stressed Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are looking into individuals and entities in a variety of countries.”

TIME Sports

The Beginning of the End for Sepp Blatter

If FIFA is going to reform itself, its president must go

Yes, Sepp Blatter was not one of soccer officials nabbed by the authorities in Zurich on May 27, as part of the U.S. government’s indictment of 14 people—including top FIFA brass—charged with money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. Public opinion, however, will cast the FIFA president’s escape as a mere technicality. According to the laws of Nixonian physics, this scandal points right to the top.

Kickback allegations have shadowed Blatter and his organization since he took over as FIFA president in 1998. Blatter plays big-league pork politics, using his substantial war chest—FIFA has more than $1.5 billion in reserves—to dole out funds to officials of tiny soccer federations, who sometimes keep the money. In November, for example, Nepal’s top soccer official temporarily stepped down after he was accused of stealing more than $5 million. These rich grants buy loyalty: in FIFA presidential elections, the votes of Nepal and Montserrat count just as much as those of America and Brazil.

Will Blatter even survive the presidential election on May 29 that UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, insists should be delayed? He was supposed to win his fifth term with ease. Now, it’s no longer a coronation. “If he’s not detained, he’ll probably win,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist from Smith College and author of the book Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. “FIFA’s propaganda machine strong, and is already distancing Blatter from the charges.” In a statement released on FIFA.com, Blatter said: “Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

Even if Blatter somehow survives Friday’s election, Zimbalist believes this scandal will be too tough for him to overcome long-term: “FIFA is an international monopoly with control over a very popular product.” In 2014, a World Cup year, FIFA generated $2 billion in revenues. “If the power is in control of the wrong people,” Zimbalist adds, “things get out of hand.” For FIFA to change, and win back the constituents its supposed to serve—players and fans of the beautiful game—Blatter has to go. Because, as Zimablist puts it, “I don’t think there is any hope of reforming Sepp Blatter.”

Read next: U.S. Accuses Soccer Officials of Decades of ‘Rampant, Systemic and Deep-Rooted’ Corruption

TIME Companies

Famous Logos Redesigned in Protest Are Pretty Shocking

Qatar Looks To 2022 FIFA World Cup
Sean Gallup/Getty Images DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 24: Arab men sit at a shoemaker's stall with a replica of the FIFA World Cup trophy in the Souq Waqif traditional market on October 24, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup football competition and is slated to tackle a variety of infrastructure projects, including the construction of new stadiums. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Pressure is mounting over worker deaths in Qatar

More than 1,400 workers have died at World Cup construction sites in Qatar, and now designers are putting the pressure on FIFA’s sponsors.

Today, nine FIFA officials were arrested in Switzerland and indicted with U.S. corruption charges—but these arrests appear unrelated to the worker deaths in Qatar. A new campaign led by the International Trade Union Confederation, a global trade group representing workers’ rights, calls for more attention on the dire issue and estimates that there will be 62 worker deaths for each World Cup game played in Qatar. As a result, major World Cup sponsors like Visa and Adidas have issued stern statements of concern, but have not pulled their sponsorships.

A number of designers online have taken up the mantle of pressuring those same sponsors by redesigning their corporate logos, tweaking the art and adding the slogan “proud sponsor of the human rights abuses of World Cup 2022.” They have submitted designs with the logos of Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Adidas, Sony and others.

The new logo designs are being posted at Bored Panda, where anyone on the Web can submit additional designs. Many of them also play with the official slogans of the sponsors, such as one that takes Sony’s “make believe” and changes it to “make slavery.”

Some of the most striking redesigns are below:

Adidas

Sony

McDonald’s

Coca-Cola

Visa

MONEY Sports

FIFA Officials Arrested for Corruption, Indicted by U.S. DOJ

The U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 people with ties to international soccer, including FIFA officials, on a long list of charges.

TIME World Cup

Russia Eyes Use of Prison Labor to Prepare for World Cup

Journalists look at a light installation showing the official logotype of the 2018 FIFA World Cup during its unveiling ceremony at the Bolshoi Theater building in Moscow, October 28, 2014.
Maxim Shemetov—Reuters Journalists look at a light installation showing the official logotype of the 2018 FIFA World Cup during its unveiling ceremony at the Bolshoi Theater building in Moscow, October 28, 2014.

Country hopes to keep costs down amid economic struggles

The Russian government has proposed using prisoners to help prepare for the 2018 World Cup.

Alexander Khinshtein, a lawmaker, has gotten the backing of the Russian prison service to enlist some of the country’s prisoners in building projects related to the soccer tournament, the Associated Press reports. Such an initiative would help keep costs of the World Cup down, since Russia typically pays prisoners about $300 per month for labor projects.

“It’ll help in the sense that there will be the opportunity to acquire building materials for a lower price,” Khinshtein told the AP. “And apart from that it’ll make it possible to get prisoners into work, which is very positive.”

The total estimated budget for the 2018 World Cup is 638 billion rubles, or more than $12 billion. However, the Russian ruble has lost significant value against the dollar since the start of 2014 because of international sanctions imposed against the country and the falling price of oil.

[AP]

TIME Soccer

Soccer Star Alex Morgan: Sepp Blatter Didn’t Know Who I Was

FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter, Alex Morgan and French actor Gerard Depardieu during the red carpet arrivals at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2012 at the Kongresshaus on Jan. 7, 2013 in Zurich.
Alexander Hassenstein—FIFA via Getty Images FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter, Alex Morgan and French actor Gerard Depardieu during the red carpet arrivals at the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala in Zurich.

Morgan calls Blatter's failure to recognize her at FIFA World Player of the Year event "shocking"

Controversial FIFA president Sepp Blatter, whose tenure atop world soccer’s governing body has been pockmarked by scandal, recently called himself “a godfather” of women’s soccer. That’s particularly amusing, considering that a group of top women’s players recently sued FIFA for gender discrimination. And that U.S. star Alex Morgan–who has nearly 1.7 million Twitter followers, tops among women soccer players–says she once went unrecognized by Blatter at an event honoring the world’s top players.

In an interview with TIME, Morgan was asked if she’s had to deal with sexism and misogyny.

“I have experienced sexism multiple times, and I’m sure I will a lot more,” she said. “I feel like I’m fighting for female athletes. At the FIFA World Player of the Year event [in 2012], FIFA executives and FIFA president Sepp Blatter didn’t know who I was. And I was being honored as top three in the world. That was pretty shocking.”

The women sued FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association because the upcoming World Cup, which kicks off June 6, is being contested on artificial turf. Many players detest this surface, saying it leads to more injuries, and disrupts the tempo of the game. No men’s World Cup has even been played on turf. The players dropped the complaint in January. Their attorney said they wanted to shift the focus from the controversy to World Cup preparation.

Morgan’s full interview — 10 Questions With Alex Morgan — appears in the June 1 edition of TIME, on newsstands now. Subscribers can read it here. Subscribe to TIME here.

FIFA’s presidential election is May 29; Blatter is running for a fifth term. Two rivals just pulled out of the contest.

TIME Brands

Even Visa Thinks the World Cup Is a Mess

FBL-WC2014-WC2022-FIFA-RIGHTS-QAT-BRA
AFP—AFP/Getty Images FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger talks during a press conference following an executive meeting of the football's world governing body at the Home of FIFA on March 21, 2014 in Zurich. A report on migrant workers' rights in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was on the agenda. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BUHOLZER (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BUHOLZER/AFP/Getty Images)

Says it's "troubled" by worker conditions in Qatar for the 2022 tournament

Visa expressed “grave concern” Wednesday about the worker conditions in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup, becoming the first major American sponsor to speak out about reports of worker deaths at construction sites.

“We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions,” Visa said. “We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

The Gulf nation is urgently preparing to host the 2022 World Cup amid searing heat and accusations of bribery. After reports of some worker deaths last summer, the International Trade Union Confederation, a global trade group representing workers’ rights, brought new attention to the crisis this week with a campaign, in partnership with NewFifaNow and the Play Fair Qatar groups.

The campaign calls for pressure on FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter. and predicts that “more than 62 workers will die for each game played during the 2022 tournament.”

Visa’s statement is the latest sign of increasing sensitivity by corporate sponsors of sports leagues to issues that receive negative attention. Last year, Visa was among several corporations, including Pepsico, AB-InBev, and Radisson Hotels, that all put out statements admonishing the NFL for its handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME viral

Watch Soccer Megastar Cristiano Ronaldo Stand Up for the Little Guy

Haters are going to struggle after watching this

It is true, multimillionaire footballer Cristiano Ronaldo just rubs some people the wrong way, but this video of the Real Madrid superstar defending a young Japanese boy attempting to speak Portuguese demonstrates his kinder side.

The video emerged Monday from a promotional event in Japan last year. In it, the boy opens with some basic greetings but begins to stumble over more complicated sentences.

When the audience laughs, Ronaldo, referring to the crowd, asks his translator off camera, “”Why they smile? Why? He speaks good Portuguese. Very good. They should be happy because he tries very hard.”

The audience was shamed into a bashful applause and Ronaldo earned some serious respect.

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