World Cup 2018: Fifa and Russia face 'sponsorship crisis'
Only ten backers are on board for next year's tournament, with football's governing body making a loss of almost £300m last year
Fifa is struggling to attract sponsors for next year's World Cup in Russia, with only ten backers believed to be on board for the tournament, which kicks off in less than 18 months.
Although the World Cup is arguably the world's biggest sporting event companies are "balking at the financial cost and reputational risk of being associated" with it, reports the Financial Times.
"The difficulties come as both Fifa, which is trying to emerge from a corruption scandal, and Russia, a pariah for many in the west since it annexed Crimea in 2014, battle with image problems."
The tournament costs up to $2bn to stage and the cost is covered by sponsorship and broadcasting rights deals, says the paper, but not only are commercial backers thin on the ground, a "consortium of Russia’s main state-run TV channels has been unable to agree a price for the rights", says the paper.
The news will add to Fifa's financial troubles, says Charles Sale of the Daily Mail.
"World football's ruling body made a loss of $369m (£289m) in 2016 and 23 backers still have to be found for a sponsorship model that has 34 slots to fill," he says. "Blue-chip firms such as Castrol, Continental Tyres and Johnson & Johnson have been lost, with no replacements emerging."
"The biggest hole is at the third tier, which has 20 places available," says Sale. "Only one has been brought on board, a Russian bank who are understood to be paying well below the ambitious £7.8m asking price. Even a home World Cup next year has failed to attract significant Russian interest."
Fifa's website lists Alfa Bank as the only third tier sponsor, with Budweiser, McDonald's and Chinese electronics group Hisense listed as official World Cup sponsors - there are up to eight such slots available.
Most of Fifa's biggest sponsorship slots have been filled, however. Two major backers, Sony and Emirates, ended their association with the organisation after the 2014 tournament but they have been replaced as top tier "partners" by Russian energy firm Gazprom and Chinese multinational conglomerate Wanda.
The others are Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai-Kia and Visa.