NEW YORK: Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Sports was dragged into the FIFAGate scandal when it was alleged, in court in New York, to have been among media giants which paid bribes to obtain international football contracts.
The allegation was made by Alejandro Burzaco, former ceo of Argentina’s powerful TyC who was testifying against former senior football executives Jose Maria Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout.
Napout is a former president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Marin headed the Brazilian federation while Burga is an ex-president of Peru’s FA.
The trio have pleaded not guilty in the investigation concerning $200m bribes connected to football rights in the Americas.
The trial is expected to last up to six weeks and Burzaco was called in connection with a 2008 agreement to pay $3.7m to a holding company named a company called Somerton Ltd in Turks and Caicos which acted as a channel for the bribes.
Burzaco added: “It’s not a real contract and no work took place.”
Prosecutors claim the contract had been signed by a former Fox executive and Burzaco, asked whom he kept informed about the bribe deals, said: “Fox Pan American Sports . . . Fox Sports.”
He said that the network had thus “gained leverage and rights to broadcast its signal to Argentina” and other parts of the world.
Fox was at the centre of controversy when world federation FIFA extended its World Cup broadcast rights in the US for the 2026 finals without going to tender.
Other broadcasters and rights agencies named by Burzaco including the Mexican giant Televisa, Brazil’s TV Globo, Media Pro, Full Play Argentina and Traffic.
Burzaco was asked to point out the three defendants in the courtroom while testifying that he bribed all of them. He also told jurors how the late Julio Grondona, a former FIFA vice-president and financial chairman, had also received cash bribes.
Burzaco said: “Julio Grondona knew everything,” and was the man who decided who received the most money and who received the least.
Burzaco described a series of meeting at hotels and restaurants in Buenos Aires starting in 2012 in which he helped strike deals for annual six-figure bribes for Marin, who replaced Teixeria as president of Brazil’s soccer federation; Burga, former president of Peru’s soccer federation; and Napout, ex-head of Paraguay’s soccer federation.
After one meeting where arrangements were made to wire Marin a portion of a $2m bribe, Marin “gave me a hug and showed me his gratitude”, Burzaco said. At another, Burga “told me he was happy collecting the bribes.”
More than 40 other football officials have pleaded guilty in hopes of receiving reduced sentences.
** Fox has not responded yet to local media requests for comment.