ZURICH: FIFA has sought to play down triumphant claims by critics earlier this week that sponsors were fleeing the world federation for fear of being tainted by reputational fall-out from the various scandals writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

In Brussels on Wednesday a conference organised by European parliamentarians heard various calls for sponsors to exert pressure on FIFA for change in the wake of the ISL, cash-for-votes and World Cup bid controversies.

Despite formal denials, critics have blamed negative publicity for the sponsorship exit of major backers such as Emirates Airlines and Sony. Both corporations have insisted that commercial concerns were the only reasons.

British media reports have added Continental, Castrol and Johnson & Johnson as further non-renewals. Castrol had been a World Cup sponsor since 2008, Continental Tyres since 2010 and Johnson & Johnson signed a deal for a single cycle in 2011.

However FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said the companies contracts had merely expired at the end of last year and negotiations for replacement partners were well under way.

Weil said: “Rotations at the end of a sponsorship cycle are commonplace in the sports industry and have continuously occurred since the commercialisation of the FIFA World Cup began.

“It is natural that as brands’ strategies evolve they reassess their sponsorship properties. The contracts were always planned to run until the end of 2014.

“As in previous FIFA World Cup cycles, we are now in advanced negotiations with a number of companies related to sponsorship agreements in all three of our categories.”

Sponsorship revenue has been estimated at $1.5bn in a four-year cycle though it is amounts to only around a third of the total generated from broadcasting rights.

FIFA has already announced an upgraded commercial system for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups with the creation of a tier of regional sponsorships.