Sony has decided it will end its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup amid concerns about the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, reports The Wall Street Journal.
According to the report, the company is cutting ties with FIFA partially for cost-cutting reasons but also because it's concerned about the negative effects of its continued association with the organization due to recent controversy surrounding FIFA's World Cup investigation.
Earlier this month, FIFA released a summary of its investigation into alleged corruption and bribery in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
While the summary of chief investigator Michael Garcia's full report included instances of wrongdoing, it ultimately cleared Qatar and Russia and didn't call for the countries' hosting rights to be stripped.
But Garcia then released a statement that his original report had been misconstrued and that key facts had been omitted by Joachim Eckert, the FIFA ethics judge who released the summary and who will ultimately decide on sanctions stemming from the investigation.
It was announced last week that the World Cup investigation report will receive an independent review from FIFA's Audit and Compliance Committee.
According to the WSJ, Sony's deal with FIFA was for eight years and 33 billion yen (approximately $280 million) and was set to expire at the end of this year. The company is one of FIFA's six "official partners," with fellow official partner Emirates Airlines having earlier cut ties with FIFA.
A FIFA spokesperson said that the organization is still "in discussions" with Sony, according to Richard Conway of the BBC.
FIFA awarded Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively, in a December 2010 vote. Neither country was considered a favorite to win its bid, particularly because England was vying for 2018 and the United States was aiming to host in 2022.
- Ben Estes