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World Cup 2018 becoming financial nightmare for FIFA as sponsors stay away

Just over a third of 32 slots are filled with six months to go until controversy-tainted tournament — a far cry from previous years when they were mostly booked up almost two years before

FIFA’s decision to award Russia the 2018 World Cup is hitting football’s governing body where it hurts the most – in the pocket.

The tournament kicks off in under six months in Moscow, but problems off the pitch are in danger of making the tournament a financial nightmare.

High-profile names like Castrol and Johnson & Johnson have already pulled out of sponsoring an event tainted by controversy since FIFA’s award of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments seven years ago.

That scandal, coupled with claims of state-sponsored doping in Russia, have created a toxic mix that is sending potential sponsors running.

Then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter reveals Russia as 2018 hosts seven years ago (Image: Getty)
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Just over a third of FIFA’s 32 sponsorship slots have been filled to date.

In previous years, the vast majority would have been taken up at least 18 months before the first match.

The situation is embarrassing for FIFA – a body striving to restore its reputation following the scandals that symbolised the reign of Sepp Blatter.

“The corruption scandal at FIFA and the bad headlines mean those big sponsors have dropped out and they can’t seem to replace them with companies of a comparable size,” says Rob Wilson, football finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University.

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“FIFA will have been holding out for more money from big conglomerates but what they’ve ended up with is an increasing number of local Russian companies taking up the slots.

“These slots essentially generate around $4bn (for FIFA) but they’re not currently anywhere near that mark.

“There’s a real reluctance from some of the biggest companies to be associated with either Russia or FIFA because both have huge issues with reputation at the current time.”

The real worry for FIFA beyond 2018 is that sponsors are also hard to find for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The eyes of the world will be on Russia 2018 next summer but it's been dogged by controversy (Image: AFP/Getty)
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Like Russia, the award of the 2022 tournament has also been tainted since the decision was taken back in December 2010.

Concerns over the rights and conditions for the workers constructing the stadiums in Qatar have added to the list of potential issues facing FIFA.

The governing body made $2bn in profit from the most recent World Cup in Brazil – a figure that further cemented its position as one of the wealthiest governing bodies in world sport.

The odds of it making a similarly handsome return in Russia are lengthening by the day.

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