ZURICH: After months, if not years, of speculation FIFA has finally signed up Qatar Airways as one of its main World Cup sponsors writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Confirmation of the completion of negotiations appeared perfectly timed ahead of a busy week for the world football federation which stages its annual congress in Manama, Bahrain, on Thursday.

The deal also provides president Gianni Infantino with an opportunity to defray concerns about last year’s losses by pointing out that, after a virtual freeze on sponsorship deals after the scandal-packed last two years, FIFA is back in commercial business.

Qatar Airways has become, fromally, ‘official partner and official airline of FIFA’ in a sponsorship package lasting until 2022 when the Gulf state hosts the World Cup finals. The airline slot has been open – obviously beckoning Qatar – ever since the expiry of FIFA’s deal with Emirates after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Other events being sponsored by Qatar Airways will include the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July, next year’s World Cup there and in Qatar, the Club World Cup and the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

A FIFA statement said the “partnership represents one of the biggest sporting sponsorships in the world and the largest in the history of Qatar Airways.”

Other Qatar Airways’ sponsorships include Barcelona and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli FC, as well as with Formula E races in Paris and New York, and the UCI Road World Championships, most recently held in Doha.

FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura said: “Qatar Airways is an ideal partner for FIFA as we prepare for the first-ever World Cup in the Gulf region.”