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Sun 20 Nov 2011 04:56 PM

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Emirates wades into Sepp Blatter racism row

Dubai flag carrier has $195m sponsorship deal with soccer’s governing body Fifa

Emirates wades into Sepp Blatter racism row
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has refused calls to step down
Emirates wades into Sepp Blatter racism row
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has refused calls to step down

Emirates Airline, one of Fifa’s biggest sponsors, has waded into the growing storm that followed comments by Sepp Blatter that racial discrimination could be settled with a handshake.

The Dubai flag carrier, which has a sponsorship deal with the soccer governing body worth $195m, said it abhorred racism, but stopped short of criticising the FIFA president directly.

"Emirates completely abhors racism and supports Fifa's own fair-play initiative and commitment to abolishing all forms of discrimination in football," the airline said in a statement. It “continues to closely watch developments within FIFA.”

Blatter’s comments have been played out across news outlets, television channels and Twitter since last Tuesday – and in a direct row with Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who blasted the 75-year-old for his claim.

The growing furore has left advertisers in a difficult spot, as fears rise that their association with troubled Fifa could lead to brand damage.

Emirates previously said it was mulling whether to end its sponsorship deal with the football organisation, which has been beset with scandals over bribery and corruption.

 “We are seriously thinking about not renewing our partnership with FIFA beyond 2014,” Boutros Boutros, Emirates’s senior VP of corporate communications, said in November.

Blatter sought to pacify the situation on Friday by apologising for his remarks but has said he has no plans to step down, despite calls for him to go.

"I cannot resign," Blatter said. "Why should I?

Swiss-born Blatter released a later statement saying his comments had been misunderstood and pledged his commitment to stamping out racism in the sport over the rest of his term.

"What I wanted to express is that, as football players, during a match, you have 'battles' with your opponents, and sometimes things are done which are wrong," he said.

"But, normally, at the end of the match, you apologise to your opponent if you had a confrontation during the match, you shake hands, and when the game is over, it is over.”

FIFA has been roiled by a slew of corruption scandals in the past year that have spooked sponsors, who pay millions to be associated with the World Cup.

Emirates signed an eight-year contract with FIFA in 2006 worth $195m. Along with other lead partners, including Adidas, Sony, Visa and Coca-Cola, it expressed concern about claims of impropriety within the organisation in May when FIFA’s presidential election was tainted by allegations of vote-buying. That followed claims of wrongdoing against members of the executive who voted for where the World Cup would be staged in 2018 and 2022.

Blatter announced a raft of anti-corruption measures earlier this year, promising to cleanse the organisation by 2013. He has been president since 1998.

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Arjun 8 years ago

I support Emirates on this one. Blatter is no less than the predecessor.....Havelange.....but on the flip side the Emirates sponsorship deal has got nothing to do with it. I was in South Africa 2010 for a whole month and in most of the grounds......hardly there were people who had taken up Emirates packages and it was a sad sight to see the entire seating lounge outside the stadia being so empty. Pricing of Emirates were in dollars and they were a minimum 12 times higher than any hotel, flight connections for domestic travel etc....I will fly to some nearby destination and and take off to Rio in 2014 until Emirates get their strategy right which i doubt. Not an issue for people like me who know workarounds.

John 8 years ago

It's already damaging the Emirates brand.

For a start, I've been boycotting the airline along with the other main FIFA sponsors (Coca Cola, Adidas, Visa, etc) until Blatter is gone and the corrupt members thrown out.

I booked my Christmas flight home a few months ago and for the first time in years I booked Virgin and not Emirates.

Glen 8 years ago

Tokyo Sekwale got it 100% correct when he said, "Footballers play the ball, not the player". Now I could understand if the comment under question here was "you idiot you are playing offside" this comment is insulting and wrong but not as pointed as pointing at race or religion.

This type of wickedness comes from a prejudiced heart which is usually well controlled in social environments but will come out when under pressure to perform.

It is the responsibility of the football associations to educate their players to achieve a change of heart in this matter. The question should be, what have we learned? and How can we move beyond this?

George Mason 8 years ago

Being President of FIFA is the greatest job in the world. You have complete impunity to do what you want when you want. You are judged by yourself, you answer to yourself. No oversight whatsoever. They write their own rule book. I find it incredible that when journalists announced the corruption scandal concerning FIFA, that FIFA actually used this to deny their bid for the worldcup. FIFA is no better than a dictatorship. If you read the wiki page on Blatter, if didn't turn up for a ceremony because he didn't like the team that won.

World leaders do not receive such impunity, it's practically an apartheid council within a sporting competion.