The head of German sportswear giant Adidas hinted for the first time on Wednesday at the possibility of cutting links with FIFA in the wake of the corruption allegations dogging the bidding process for the 2006 World Cup.
“If FIFA succeeds in reforming itself — and in my view they’re making good progress here — then we will continue,” Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer said.
Adidas has sponsored FIFA for more than 40 years and the current contract runs until 2030.
But if FIFA fails to get its house in order, “we will have to think about what the alternatives are,” Hainer said.
German football has been engulfed by claims that a 6.7 million euro ($7.2 million) payment to FIFA was used to purchase the votes of four members of FIFA’s executive committee in 2000 — days before Germany narrowly won the right to host the 2006 finals.
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter has been suspended by the organisation he has headed for 17 years, and faces a hearing at the ethics committee over allegations of corruption.
While a number of other major sponsors, such as Coca-Cola and VISA, have called on Blatter to go, Adidas has so far taken a more conciliatory tone.
Hainer’s comments to the Handelsblatt are the first time he has hinted at rupturing ties with FIFA.
He rejected suggestions that Adidas might have known about the shady wheelings and dealings going on within FIFA.
“No-one can claim Adidas is responsible,” he said.