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FIFA fails in Swiss court bid over Visa deal- 28 Feb 2007 00:00:00

FIFA’s bid to circumnavigate the verdict of a US federal court concerning the invalidation of its proposed World Cup sponsorship deal with Visa has failed after an attempt to get a hearing before an arbitration panel in Switzerland was dismissed.

A judge in the governing body’s ‘home’ country of Switzerland rejected out of hand FIFA’s request for an arbitration panel meaning that the only option remaining to the governing body is an appeal in the US court – a scenario which it is unlikely to win.

At the end of last year, a New York federal court upheld MasterCard’s legal case against the governing body that FIFA struck a deal with Visa for the World Cup sponsorship post-2006 without allowing MasterCard its contractual obligation of first refusal on the exclusive category rights.

The court proceedings found that four FIFA officials, including marketing director Jerome Valcke, had lied to both brands on numerous occasions regarding the availability of the rights, beginning with a conversation with Visa head of marketing Tom Shepard at the 2004 Olympics in Athens in which Shepard was led to believe that MasterCard had no contractual rights on a renewal deal.

Visa subsequently signed a £150m deal with FIFA earlier this year for the World Cup sponsorship rights for 2010 and 2014.

However, the court ruling supported MasterCard’s view that its contract with FIFA included a clause outlining first refusal on a renewal – even though the structure of the sponsorship packages moving forward was changing.

In the wake of the ruling, Valcke and his three colleagues were fired from their posts at FIFA.

Should FIFA not be successful in any attempt to overturn the US court ruling, it must offer MasterCard the opportunity to take the World Cup rights and its contract with VIsa will become null and void.

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