The company has become the first sponsor to walk away from football’s governing body in the wake of fresh corruption allegations against the Qatar World Cup bid.
However, Emirates claims its reason for backing out of the deal was due to unfavourable contractual terms. In a statement it says: “The decision was made following an evaluation of FIFA’s contract proposal which did not meet Emirates’ expectations.”
The airline had hinted such a move was on the cards earlier this summer when it joined fellow FIFA sponsors to demand the organisation investigate its controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The Emirates first threatened to axe its FIFA ties in 2011. It said at the time that it would seriously consider not extending its sponsorship contract beyond 2014 should FIFA fail to address allegations of vote-buying in its presidential election and the alleged wrongdoing of executives who voted for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
It means the Dubai-based airline will not be officially tied to the World Cup when it comes to domestic market Qatar in four years. Despite its absence, the airline’s brand is entrenched in football through deals with Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and AC Milan in football and so any fallout its split with FIFA should be minimal.
It now leaves Sony as the only one of FIFA’s six top tier partners to not have agreed an extension following discussions. Although, it is understood that the electronics maker is due to turn down the proposal in order to focus its football sponsorship activations around the UEFA Champions League.
FIFA will be spoilt for choice in finding replacements for both Emirates and Sony with rivals Qatar Airways and Samsung tipped to be the likely candidates.
While corruption allegations have dogged FIFA in recent years, sponsors are still prepared to a pay premium for rights to all its assets.
The World Cup in Brazil generated $4bn in revenue, with $1.4bn coming from sponsorships and $2.6bn from TV rights. Since the 2006 Word Cup, sponsorship revenue increased 33% for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and is said to have jumped 10% to £1.4bn for the 2014 edition, according to Forbes. Emirates spent around $100m over the past four years to be one of FIFA’s partners, according to Brand Finance.
The Emirates decision comes just weeks after Michael Garcia, the lead investigator into alleged corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, criticised FIFA for not conducting its ethics investigation in a transparent manner.