Soccer sponsors raise pressure on FIFA over Qatar claims

With its four yearly showpiece event only four days away, soccer’s governing body FIFA is on the defensive, conducting an internal investigation into the decisions to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar.


Both countries have denied any wrongdoing.

Qatar’s bid has attracted controversy from the outset because of the extreme summer heat during the months when the Cup is played and the tiny country’s lack of domestic soccer tradition. If it goes ahead, the tournament is expected to be switched to a date later in the year, creating scheduling headaches for broadcasters and European club soccer clubs.

The signs of unease from some of FIFA’s paymasters will raise pressure on the body, led by its 78-year-old Swiss president Sepp Blatter, to get to the bottom of the allegations and tackle underlying concerns about how it is run.

“The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners,” said German sportswear company Adidas, which has signed up as FIFA sponsor until 2030, extending a partnership dating back to 1970.

Coca-Cola concurred.

“Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us,” a company statement read.

“But we are confident that FIFA is taking these allegations very seriously and is investigating them thoroughly through the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.

“The FIFA World Cup is a platform that unites people all over the world, inspiring and celebrating the world’s most popular sport while creating memorable experiences for athletes and fans. We believe that through our partnership and continued involvement with FIFA we can help foster optimism and unity, while making a positive difference in the communities we serve.”

Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper has over the last two weekends printed what it says are leaked documents showing bribes were paid to secure the event for Qatar, which Qatar denies.

Former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia, leading FIFA’s internal investigation, is due to report in July, around a week after this year’s World Cup final.

FIFA issued a statement from the body’s marketing director Thierry Weil as it sought to take heat out of the situation.

“We are in constant contact with our Commercial Affiliates including Adidas, Sony and Visa and they have 100 percent confidence in the investigation currently being conducted by FIFA’s independent Ethics Committee,” Weil said.

“Our sponsors have not requested anything that is not covered by the on-going investigation by the Ethics Committee.”

Payment card company Visa, which has a contract as a FIFA sponsor until 2022, said it was monitoring the progress of the Garcia investigation.

“We expect FIFA will take the appropriate actions to respond to the report and its recommendations,” it said in a statement.

Japanese consumer goods company Sony took a similar line, saying said it expected the allegations to be “investigated appropriately”.


It is unusual for sponsors to say anything publicly on such a sensitive issue and the comments reflect concern over the knock-on effects on their image.

“This underlines that companies need to make sure that any high profile association enhances their reputation rather than damages it,” said Andy Sutherden, Global Head of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship at communications firm H+K Strategies.

FIFA, which Blatter has led since 1998, earned almost $1.4 billion last year, including more than $600 million from the sale of broadcasting rights and more than $400 million from sponsors and other marketing partners.

Sony, Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola are among six main FIFA sponsors who collectively paid around $180 million last year. Sony’s sponsorship agreement, which also included the 2010 World Cup, expires this year, giving it particular leverage as it negotiates a new deal.

Airline Emirates, whose sponsorship deal is also up for renewal at the end of the year, declined to comment, as did South Korean carmaker Hyundai/Kia.

The Sunday Times printed new accusations on Sunday, just four days before the 2014 tournament kicks off in Brazil, alleging that then-Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari, had brokered meetings between Qatari officials and governments to discuss bilateral trade deals.

Qatar denies Bin Hammam was connected to its bid for the Cup. Bin Hammam has not commented. FIFA has already banned Bin Hammam for life from soccer over accusations he paid bribes to win votes for a bid to become FIFA president. That ban was overturned but another was imposed for conflicts of interest.


FIFA is now facing calls to strip Qatar of the World Cup should Garcia’s investigation prove that it bought the votes needed to host the tournament.

The United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea were the rivals who lost out to Qatar in the 2010 vote and are all safer choices as former hosts of major sporting events and developed markets for consumer brands.

U.S. broadcaster Fox, which paid an estimated $425 million for rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, was already unhappy with plans to switch the dates of the Qatar tournament to later in the calendar year when it would clash with the NFL American football programme.

Both fans and sponsors would be likely to cheer a switch to a different venue, although Qatar would be certain to mount a legal challenge to keep the Cup.

“None of the sponsors would want it to be held in Qatar,” said David Peters, managing director of marketing company Dentsu Aegis Network Sport & Entertainment.

“FIFA haven’t given a great deal of consideration to sponsors. The sport is so big, they are less beholden than other sports,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Ossian Shine in Rio de Janeiro, Peter Graff in London, Reiji Murai in Tokyo, Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul and Tim Hepher in Paris, editing by Philippa Fletcher and Anna Willard)

Surprised Froome wins first Dauphine stage

Britain’s defending champion Chris Froome has won the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, an individual time-trial in Lyon.


Froome finished the 10.4km course in 13min 13sec, 8sec ahead of biggest rival Alberto Contador of Spain.

Early pace setter Bob Jungels of Luxembourg finished third at 9sec ahead of American Andrew Talansky.

“I’m a bit surprised to be honest, I didn’t expect to win. It’s a result that confirms the work done in training and the fact that I’m in form,” Froome said afterwards.

Froome trailed Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali by 2sec at the intermediate checkpoint on Sunday following the stage’s lone climb, the fourth category Montee de l’Observance, while holding a slender 1sec advantage over Spain’s Contador.

However, the Team Sky rider set a blazing pace over the second half of the circuit to propel himself into the race leader’s yellow jersey and overhaul Nibali, who finished the day down in a tie for eighth at 13sec.

“During the course I didn’t have any information regarding the times of my rivals, I preferred to just focus on myself and what I was doing,” said Froome.

“I only knew that the final 4km were difficult going into the wind, so I saved my strength for that part.”

Froome, who will also try to defend his Tour de France title next month, admitted that he hadn’t anticipated wearing yellow quite so soon.

“It’s a bit of an unexpected situation because I didn’t expect to find myself in this position but it’s great to not have any time to make up.

“I’m going to defend the yellow jersey even if I didn’t think I’d have it right now.”

Monday’s second leg is a 156km ride between Tarare and the Col du Beal, with a final climb of 13.6km at 6.6 per cent.

Scramble to aid Afghan flood victims

Rescuers have scrambled to deliver food and medical supplies to Afghan families marooned on mountaintops after flash floods killed 80 people in a remote northern district, washing away hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee.


The death toll was expected to rise, with scores of people said to be missing in the mountainous district of Baghlan province after torrential rains unleashed the floods on Friday.

The floods come a month after a landslide triggered by heavy rains buried a village and killed 300 people in a nearby region.

The twin disasters highlight the challenges facing underdeveloped Afghanistan’s next leader as the country heads into the second round of the presidential election on June 14.

“People have lost everything they had – houses, property, villages, agricultural fields, cattle,” Baghlan police spokesman Jawed Basharat said about the floods.

“There’s nothing left for them to survive. People don’t even having drinking water,” he said.

Television channels relayed footage of one man wading through a gushing stream of muddy brown flood waters, his back stooped under the weight of a burlap sack.

Basharat said the death toll had climbed to 80. The Afghan army, he added, was battling to deliver aid to the affected families, many of whom have fled to mountaintops to escape flood waters.

Afghanistan’s defence ministry had dispatched two helicopters to deliver aid packages to the area as roads and mountain passes were left devastated by the floods, said Obaidullah Ramin, an MP from Baghlan province.

“Some nine kilometres of roads were destroyed by floodwaters, so officials are trying to deliver aid by air,” Ramin told AFP, confirming that 80 bodies had so far been recovered by authorities.

“Relief agencies have distributed some aid, but it is not enough. The problems of the flood-affected people need to be addressed fully,” he said, adding that he had toured the affected areas.

Most disaster management officials were difficult to reach on Sunday due to poor telecommunication networks in the remote area.

The governor of the province, Sultan Mohammad Ebadi, warned the extent of the disaster was “massive”.

Bodies of women and children were among those recovered from the inundated areas, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said, adding that scores of people were missing.

“There is a lot of stagnant water, and there are more bodies under the rubble and mud,” Mohammad Nasim Kohzad, head of NDMA in Baghlan, told AFP.

“We are still looking for other victims of this flood.”

“The floods destroyed four villages, and washed away 2000 residential houses, agricultural fields and also killed thousands of cattle,” Noor Mohammad Guzar, the governor of the remote affected district of Guzargah-e-Nur said.

Journalists join a high order

Former Age editor-in-chief Michael Gawenda is pleased journalists are being recognised in appointments to the Order of Australia.


The career journalist, who also worked as a foreign correspondent and was a founder of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, said he always saw his craft as one for outsiders.

“(Journalists) are people that are there to scrutinise and hold people to account,” Mr Gawenda said.

He has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to the print media industry and his work to advance professional education and development.

Recognition of journalists in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List is good for journalism, he said, particularly in the current environment.

“I think journalism is facing many challenges at the moment and I’m concerned about what the future holds,” Mr Gawenda said.

“I often think – are young journalists going to be able to have the opportunities and play the role that older people like me have been able to play in journalism.”

He hopes so, he said, and is encouraged by the enduring high level of demand for journalism courses.

Mr Gawenda edited Melbourne’s Age newspaper from 1997 to 2003, and was editor-in-chief from 2003 to 2004.

Prior to joining The Age he edited Time Magazine’s Australia and South Pacific edition and he worked in Washington as a foreign correspondent after ending his term as editor-in-chief at The Age.

He was the inaugural director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism when it was established at the University of Melbourne in 2009.

Another distinguished journalist appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia is ABC Canberra newsreader Virginia Haussegger.

She has presented the ABC News and 7.30 Report, worked as a senior reporter with the Nine and Seven networks and has written columns for the Canberra Times, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

She has been recognised for her service to the media and to the community as an advocate for women’s rights and gender equity.

As the 100th anniversary of the First World War approaches, journalist Les Carlyon has been appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia for his eminent service to literature and understanding of Australia’s war history, as well to the horseracing industry.

Mr Carlyon, who was editor of The Age from 1975 to 1976, has written numerous highly acclaimed books on the First World War, the Gallipoli campaign and about the horseracing industry and its famous identities.

Lonely Planet founders receive Order of Australia honour

Honorary Aussies Tony and Maureen Wheeler have been recognised for their contribution to the travel industry and been appointed officers of the Order of Australia (AM).


The Lonely Planet founders have been recognised on the Queen’s Birthday 2014 honour list for their distinguished service to business and commerce as a publisher of travel guides, and as benefactors to Australian arts and aid organisations.

The Wheelers, who hail from the UK but have called Australia home for the past 40 years, started Lonely Planet Publications in 1973.

In 2008, they also launched Planet Wheeler Foundation, which funds projects aimed at alleviating poverty in the developing world.

Tony Wheeler says out of all their work, it’s nice to recognised for Lonely Planet.

Although the Wheelers no longer own the company, Wheeler says he’s still very proud of it.

“The fact that it was an Australian creation I just think is fantastic,” he says.

“We think of it here in Australia as being a very Australian company, and it’s there in the English language in America and Canada, and New Zealand and the UK … but actually it’s everywhere else as well.

“You go to China now and the young Chinese who really want to travel, they’re obsessed with Lonely Planet.”

Also receiving recognition for his contribution to the travel industry is Christopher Brown, the former managing director of the Tourism and Transport Forum for 19 years.

Brown has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the tourism, infrastructure and transport sectors through leadership roles, and to the community.

Nadal win payback for Australia misery

Rafael Nadal believes his ninth French Open triumph is payback for his injury-hit Australian Open defeat earlier this year.


The 28-year-old Spaniard clinched his 14th career Grand Slam title and a fifth in a row in Paris with a 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 victory over old rival Novak Djokovic in the pair’s 42nd meeting.

The world number one, whose Roland Garros record stands at 66 wins against just one defeat, also now has 14 majors, the same as Pete Sampras and just three behind the all-time record of Roger Federer.

But one of his first thoughts on Sunday was his 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 defeat to Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open final in Melbourne in January where he needed extensive treatment on his injured back.

“It’s an amazing, emotional moment for me. I lost the Australian Open final this year when I had a problem with my back. Today tennis has given me back what happened in Australia,” said Nadal.

The Spaniard was quick to praise Djokovic who was chasing a seventh major and a first Roland Garros title which would have made him only the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam.

His win ended a four-match losing streak to Djokovic and gave him a sixth win in six meetings against the Serb in the French capital.

“Every moment was crucial, all the points were so hard,” said Nadal.

“Playing against Novak is always a big challenge, I have lost to him the last four times. Every chance I have to beat him it’s because I have had to play to my limit. I feel sorry for Novak. He deserves to win this tournament one day and I am sure he will.”

Sunday’s 3hr 31min duel ended on a sour note when Djokovic double-faulted on match point, shaken by a shout from the crowd.

But the Serb refused to lambast the fan.

The Philippe Chatrier court crowd, sensitive to the disappointing ending to the final, accorded Djokovic a moving and lengthy ovation which had the 27-year-old on the verge of tears as he received his runners-up trophy from Swedish legend Bjorn Borg.

“The support of the crowd was big for him and me,” said the world number two who has now lost seven of his 13 Grand Slam finals.

“There’s always a lot of tension. You can’t find excuses in the crowd. It’s part of sport. Life goes on.”

Djokovic, who appeared to vomit early in the fourth set, admitted that Nadal was probably the fresher player as the final progressed in brutal 30-degree heat.

“I was struggling in the third set but I felt better in the fourth,” he said.

“But overall I wasn’t at the level I was at when I beat him in Rome last month. At this level, it takes it out of you. Rafa was the better player in the crucial moments.”

Victoria Arts lover honoured with AO

Betty Amsden didn’t get involved in the Melbourne arts scene until she was in her 70s, 20 years later she is being made an Officer of the Order of Australia for her service to the field.


“I’m a little awe-struck,” she told AAP.

“It’s a big responsibility.”

Ms Amsden has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours for her work with the Arts Centre Melbourne, the Australian Ballet School, Orchestra Victoria, and Victorian Opera, among others.

This year she sponsored the Play Me I’m Yours program that allowed Melburnians to tickle the ivories of 24 pianos located around the city in what she said was an attempt to help them feel connected to the arts precinct.

A City of Melbourne assessment of the program found 98 per cent of participants felt happy after playing along.

Eighty-three per cent felt inspired and 75 per cent felt creative.

“It has made me so proud and so, so thrilled,” Ms Amsden said.

Ms Amsden is no stranger to being honoured for her philanthropy, having already been awarded a medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2002.

But when she looks back on her years of philanthropy, the moments she finds most rewarding aren’t the medals or the accolades, they’re the personal tokens.

She recalls the story of a young, disadvantaged woman who couldn’t afford to buy a stethoscope after being accepted into medical school.

Ms Amsden donated the money, and received a “most gorgeous, gorgeous letter” in return.

The AO recognises not just her contribution to the arts, but her involvement in the Melbourne community broadly.

Ms Amsden is also involved in Guide Dogs Victoria and the RSPCA and says she wants to nourish and support future leaders.

“I think that middle management of any organisation is very much forgotten and I like to encourage them to advance themselves and empower them,” she said.

Former Melbourne Lord Mayor John So was also made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to local government.

Newey and Red Bull agree new deal

Red Bull principal Christian Horner said at the Canadian Grand Prix that Newey would work on as yet unspecified new Red Bull Technology projects as well as “advising and mentoring” the team.


Newey, a key and highly-paid part of Red Bull’s success who would be snapped up in an instant by any of the other leading teams, said he would be taking a step back once the 2015 car was signed off.

“I will be involved in the initial layout and stuff then in the future I will be involved with the guys…just mentoring them and stuff and being an advisor really,” he told Sky Sports television.

“I have loved the career I’ve had, but I feel I need some new challenges and stimulations. I said I didn’t want to spend my whole career purely in motor racing and now it is time to look at a few different things.”

Newey, who also has a love of racing the classic cars in his own collection, has been at Red Bull since the start of the 2006 season after designing multiple title-winning cars for Williams and McLaren.

Milton Keynes-based Red Bull have won the last four drivers’ and constructors’ championships in a row with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel and were determined not to lose Newey to a rival outfit.

The new agreement effectively ensures that does not happen while giving Newey fresh air to satisfy his desire to try something different.

The Briton had made clear last month, when he moved to quash speculation about a possible big money bid from rivals Ferrari, that he wanted to stay at Red Bull despite the current domination of Mercedes.

Newey, 55, has been linked to Ferrari in the past as well as a switch to Americas Cup yachting – which could now play a part in his future.

He has also forged a close working relationship with Horner, who told reporters in Monaco two weeks ago that Newey had a “paternal feeling” towards Red Bull.

“He has been involved (with the team) since the beginning, is much more involved than he has been at any other team, and he enjoys the environment he works in,” said the Briton.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Steve Tongue/Gene Cherry)

Latest Queen’s Birthday Honours recognise 783 Aussies

A soldier awarded the second highest bravery award, former Labor science minister Barry Jones, members of Australia’s top pop group and a professional fairy godmother all feature in the latest Queen’s Birthday honours list.


They’re among 783 Australians, some well known, some quiet achievers, awarded a range of gongs to recognise their particular contribution.

That’s 393 men and 178 women. Thirteen are deceased.

Awarded the Star of Gallantry, second only to the Victoria Cross, is Private B. Neither his name, unit or many other details of his heroic action are disclosed in the citation.

It says he repeatedly exposed himself to sustained heavy fire without regard for his own safety to support his team during operations in Afghanistan. That undoubtedly saved lives.

Two special forces soldiers, Private M and Corporal W, were commended for gallantry in Afghanistan.

Seven Australians received the top honour as Companions of the Order of Australia, among then Barry Jones for his eminent service to the community as a leading intellectual and longtime politician. He remains Australia’s best known science minister, a position he held for seven years under Bob Hawke.

In the 1960s, The Seekers dominated the music charts in Australia, the UK and US and they continue to perform. Recognising that long contribution, the four members of the group Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley have been appointed officers of the Order of Australia.

So have Maureen and Tony Wheeler, founders of the Lonely Planet travel guide series.

Hetty Johnston, founder of the child protection group Bravehearts, is appointed a member of the Order of Australia.

Governor-General Peter Cosgrove said these awards recognised the diverse personal efforts of individuals, made willingly without thought of recognition or recompense.

“We are fortunate as a community and as a nation to benefit from your contribution, and it is fitting that you have been recognised by the Australian honours system,” he said in a statement.

“You now join the company of men and women whose actions have enriched our community and whose values we hold dear – compassion, dedication, generosity, tolerance, energetic ambition.”

Chair of the Council of the Order, former defence chief Angus Houston, said these awards were public recognition of people who provide outstanding community service.

“By their actions they demonstrate the qualities of positive role models. The recipients are not only worthy of respect but encourage emulation,” he said in a statement.

And the fairy? That’s Ms Fairy Sparkle, who, in her distinctive fairy outfit, visits sick children in hospital.

She’s described as a “24/7 fairy” who has committed more than 23 years to this worthy mission. For that she’s recognised with a medal in the Order of Australia.

US critic of digital age Jaron Lanier scoops German book prize

An American critic of the digital age has been awarded a prestigious German book prize for his groundbreaking role in exploring the risks of today’s internet technologies.


Jaron Lanier, credited with coining the phrase “virtual reality”, has scooped this year’s Peace Prize of the German Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association, at a time when the country is engaged in a heated debate about internet security.

The prize, which carries a 25,000 euro ($A37,498) endowment, comes exactly a year after former CIA intelligence contractor Edward Snowden began revealing the vast scope of the US data dragnet, triggering privacy fears.

Data-sensitive Germans in particular reacted with outrage to the leaks.

Lanier’s two books, which include last year’s Who Owns the Future? have helped make the California-based 54-year-old “one of the most important critics of the digital world in our time”, the association said in a statement.

It described the 2013 work as “a call to equip the digital universe with structures that respect the rights of individuals while simultaneously fostering democratic participation”.

The book looks at the concentration of power and money in today’s digital networks.

Lanier, who has also worked in the field as an entrepreneur and researcher, had highlighted “the threats our open society faces when deprived of the power to control its own progress and development”, it added.

The prize, which ranks behind the country’s top literary award, the Georg Buechner Prize, will be presented during the Frankfurt book fair in October.

Past winners have included Turkey’s Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and Chinese dissident author Liao Yiwu.