FIFA fires four execs after MasterCard mess

Dec 12, 2006 - 5:56 PM ZURICH, Switzerland (Ticker) - FIFA have sacked four top executives in the wake of a damaging U.S. court judgement that ruled they had "lied repeatedly" in negotiations with sponsors MasterCard.

The four - TV and marketing director Jerome Valcke plus marketing executives Stefan Schuster, Tom Houseman and Rob Lampman - have been dismissed after being named in the court judgement as having seriously misled the credit card giants.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter decided on swift action to limit any damage caused by the controversy.

"The FIFA employees who had conducted negotiations with VISA and MasterCard were accused of repeated dishonesty during negotiations and of giving false information to the FIFA-deciding bodies in question," a FIFA statement read. "Even though the judgment has proved to be very biased in favor of MasterCard, the fact cannot be overlooked that FIFA's negotiations breached its business principles. FIFA cannot possibly accept such conduct among its own employees."

The statement said it was considering an appeal against the court ruling but it is understood that is now unlikely.

"We are determined to act ethically and we are doing the right thing," a FIFA source said.

The court ruling said FIFA breached their obligation to give MasterCard first refusal on post-2006 sponsorship when they agreed a deal with VISA instead.

"FIFA's negotiators lied repeatedly to MasterCard, including when they assured MasterCard that FIFA would not sign a deal for the post-2006 sponsorship rights with anyone else unless it could not reach agreement with MasterCard," the ruling stated.

It says that the negotiators provided VISA with blow-by-blow updates of the MasterCard negotiations - "an action FIFA's president admitted would not be 'fair play'."

The ruling also stated that both MasterCard and Visa were not dealt with honestly.

"FIFA's marketing director (Valcke) lied to both MasterCard, FIFA's long-time partner, and to VISA. When VISA raised its bid to the same level as MasterCard's, he declined his subordinates' suggestion to give MasterCard the opportunity to submit a higher bid based on his concern for his own reputation with the FIFA Board," the ruling said. "He also declined his subordinates' recommendation that he recommend to the FIFA Board that it continue with its prior approval of MasterCard as the post-2006 sponsor.

"Instead, he told the board it was difficult for him to make a recommendation and never mentioned MasterCard's first right to acquire the post-2006 sponsorship."

Blatter did meet VISA's president Christopher Rodrigues in January 2005 and expressed support for a potential partnership.

But Valcke admitted to the court he lied when he told VISA vice-president Tom Shepard on March 9 "that it was Mr Blatter's wish that VISA get the sponsorship".

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