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More Chinese sponsorship for FIFA

Friday 2 June 2017

SIMON Chadwick, Professor of sports enterprise at the University of Salford, comments on the new deal signed between Chinese smart phone manufacturer Vivo and FIFA. Vivo are the latest Chinese company to agree to sponsor the football World Cup.

Simon said: “The €400 deal is the latest in a series of agreements involving FIFA and Chinese corporations. It comes at a time when FIFA is continuing to grapple with the fallout of corruption that has afflicted it for years. The financial costs of dealing with corruption are something the governing body has openly acknowledged. Dealing with it has involved mounting legal bills, while several sponsors have deserted the organisation fearing that they will become tarnished by FIFA’s poor image.

“Into the vacuum created by the fallout of corruption, ongoing public scrutiny and growing financial pressure, has stepped a country that has rapidly become one of FIFA’s closest allies: China.

“Yet while such deals have helped bring some (financial) stability to FIFA, it is what they have done for China and its global football ambitions that seems a more pertinent aspect of the country’s and FIFA’s burgeoning relationship. Through its series of sponsorship deals, China has within two years ascended to world football’s top-table from a position of almost complete obscurity in 2014.

“China’s influence on world football will no doubt have also been enhanced with the recent election of Chinese Football Association’s Zhang Jian as one of FIFA’s new council members. However, it is hard cash from sponsorships that is more likely to be having a more profound impact, although this is hardly accidental. In effect, China has strategically created a resource dependence in its relationship with FIFA, whereby the latter is now increasingly looking eastwards in its quest for money.

“By now, many people are aware of the country’s desire to host and win the World Cup, both of which many observers have viewed purely in playing terms. However, FIFA now seems to have become entwined in a network of Chinese economic and political pressures, from which it may be difficult to escape. For instance, it is perhaps telling that Wanda’s sponsorship deal with the World Cup ends in 2030, with some people already speculating that China’s payback will be to host the tournament that year.

“This may give sponsors unprecedented access to the people who make or influence important decisions, such as those who influence which country might host a World Cup. China’s connections within FIFA should not therefore be couched solely in terms of the financial ties between the two of them. Rather, it should also be seen in terms of the extended network of relationships a World Cup sponsorship links China and its corporations into.”

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Sam Wood

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