By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA, which has struggled to find commercial partners since it was battered by a corruption scandal last year, named a Russian bank as the first of up to 20 regional World Cup sponsors on Monday.
The global soccer body said Alfa Bank would “activate sponsorship initiatives” around the 2018 World Cup, which is being hosted by Russia, although it did not say how much the deal is worth.
FIFA said that under a new commercial strategy for the World Cup, up to four packages were being offered for regional sponsors in each of five regions it listed as Europe, North America, South America, Middle East and Africa, and Asia.
FIFA was thrown into turmoil last year after criminal investigations were launched into the sport in the United States, where several dozen former soccer officials have been indicted, and Switzerland.
It was also forced to reform its bidding process after a December 2010 vote awarded the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Gianni Infantino was elected to the FIFA presidency in February after promising greater funding for FIFA’s 211 member associations during his campaign.
He said increasing sponsorship revenue would be a priority for his presidency.
FIFA sources have said the federation faces a shortfall of about $500 million in its predictions if it fails to reach sponsorship revenue targets and Infantino’s rivals in the election said his targets were unrealistic.
FIFA’s commercial structure allows for six to eight top tier partners, of which China’s Wanda Group became the sixth when they signed a deal in March. Previously, Sony and Emirates had both left at the end of 2014 after their agreements expired.
These are followed by six to eight World Cup sponsors, although only two of these slots are currently filled.
The regional World Cup sponsors are a further tier below, having replaced the old system of national sponsors from the host nation.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by John Stonestreet)