Rights deals are exploding in cost everywhere across the world. There are few things more valuable from a media perspective than live sports rights, especially when it comes to a major event like the World Cup. Millions are spent around the world on the tournament. When Fox signed their deal with FIFA to take the World Cup from ESPN, they did so by writing a massive $425 million check for two World Cup cycles.
So if World Cup rights are being sold for $600,000 in another part of the world for pennies on the dollar, and then licensed elsewhere for massive profits… there might be problems of possible corruption.
Possible corruption? FIFA? Inconceivable!
And just who was able to profit from this sweetheart deal? Here’s another shocker that you want to be sure you’re sitting down for … Jack Warner!
Via the AP:
FIFA President Sepp Blatter should face a criminal investigation for selling under-valued World Cup television rights to Jack Warner, the governing body’s former anti-corruption adviser said Monday.
Mark Pieth, a Swiss professor of criminal law, said Blatter is a likely target in a Swiss federal investigation of “criminal mismanagement” at FIFA.
“Blatter has to defend himself against a form of embezzlement charges. That’s a topic they need to discuss,” Pieth said of an investigation being led by Switzerland’s attorney general.
Swiss broadcaster SRF on Friday published a Blatter-signed FIFA contract from 2005 that sold the Warner-controlled Caribbean Football Union rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for a combined $600,000.
Warner, then a longstanding FIFA vice president and Blatter supporter, licensed the rights to a company controlled by his family. They were then sold for a reported sum of about $20 million to a Jamaica-based broadcaster.
The contract document appeared to confirm Warner’s claim in 2011, after he left FIFA when implicated in bribery, that FIFA let him control cheap World Cup rights in exchange for helping Blatter win presidential elections.
That’s a pretty good racket that FIFA had going, wasn’t it? Gift-wrap television rights to a FIFA executive committee member who just happens to be in the television business, and then re-license them for 33 TIMES THE MONEY! Then Jack Warner makes tens of millions of dollars and Sepp Blatter secures a vote that helps to keep him in power.
There’s so much money in rights deals, it’s a perfect place for FIFA to take advantage of the situtaion and do what they do best – embezzlement. (It’s also why there’s some serious questions about FIFA gifting Fox rights to the 2026 World Cup to make up for the Qatar mess.) If these allegations are true (and who wouldn’t believe them at the moment) and Warner and his family did make almost $20 million in re-selling rights fees, it’s an even bigger amount than the other mega-corruption claims surrounding Warner’s FIFA tenure. And in case you were wondering, that deal was terminated when Warner resigned his FIFA post.
There’s only one way to fix this in the future – John Oliver should be given World Cup rights in the Caribbean.