Sony is dumping FIFA as the Swiss-based body governing World Cup soccer finds itself up to its knees in a bribery scandal.
A report by the Wall Street Journal cites "a person familiar with the matter" who revealed that Sony is no longer renewing its sponsorship contract with FIFA. The decision comes amid allegations that top FIFA executives are guilty of bribery and collusion when FIFA awarded the honor of hosting the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 respectively.
Sony is the second of the six "top-tier" FIFA sponsors to walk out on FIFA. The Xperia maker follows in the footsteps of Emirates Airlines, which said a few weeks ago that it would discontinue its sponsorship.
Sony, whose eight-year contract ends in December, paid a total of 33 billion yen, or approximately $280 million, to be able to market its smartphones and LED TVs at this year's World Cup in Brazil.
Sony itself has not confirmed the report, but FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke told reporters in Ireland on Nov. 26 that the decision of Sony and Emirates Airlines to split from the World Cup has "nothing to do" with the controversy over the lack of transparency in the bidding process.
"I know that football is still a very strong product and I am not really concerned with FIFA's finances for the future," Valcke said.
The Journal's source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak officially about the matter, believes the decision to leave FIFA may give the Japanese electronics company more room for restructuring efforts.
Sony aims to cut down on costs in its mobile and television division while growing its electronic devices business, particularly its image sensors department. However, the source also says that Sony expressed concern over the negative implications of being associated with FIFA.
In fact, Sony called for FIFA to "adhere to its principles of integrity, ethics and fair play across all aspects of its operations" and address the bribery allegations through a thorough investigation. FIFA conceded and commissioned former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia to conduct an investigation of the 2010 vote.
However, the 430-page report compiled by Garcia is currently unpublished, and Garcia himself challenges the report summary published by FIFA ethics panel chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert.
According to Eckert, the investigation found no reason to reopen the bidding process, but Garcia says the summary contains information taken out of context and "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions."
A meeting with Eckert and Garcia has led to the decision to elevate the issue of whether to publish the report or not to Domenico Scala, chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee. FIFA later admitted that "there seem[s] to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities."